The Louisiana grain harvest is progressing well, but yields are down because of too much rain at the wrong time in the growing season, experts say. “This year was, and still is, a challenging year for farmers,” said LSU AgCenter's David Lanclos.
Heavy rains in mid-June flooded fields and caused many farmers to replant crops. Persistent rains reduced field work, slowed crop growth and increased the competition of weeds, disease and insects. During the same time, long periods of overcast skies reduced the sunlight needed for photosynthesis in the plants and caused additional crop stress, Lanclos explained.
“At this point (Aug. 20), 60 percent of the state's corn acreage is harvested,” Lanclos said, adding that corn harvest is in full swing. “Yield reports are averaging from 90 bushels to 140 bushels per acre — compared to 120 to 160 bushels in previous years.”
Lanclos said the 10 percent drop in the average corn yield is the result of heavy early-season rains.
“The persistent rains early in the season saturated soils and caused corn plants to develop shallow root systems and weak stalks,” he said.
In such situations, additional heavy rains or high winds add stress to weak plants and can cause stalks to fall to the ground and be difficult to harvest.
Louisiana farmers have nearly a half-million acres of corn this year, and Lanclos said the good news is recent sunny days have been good to dry the corn crop for harvest.
As for other crops, the harvest of early-maturing soybeans and grain sorghum has begun in the state. “We estimate about 1 million acres of soybeans were planted in the state,” said Lanclos. “Early harvest yields were ranging between 25 and 40 bushels per acre.”
Last year's average soybean yield, according to LSU AgCenter figures, was 37.4 bushels per acre on nearly 734,000 acres harvested.
The harvest of grain sorghum also is well under way, and experts say those yields are down 10 to 15 percent from last year.
Although the cotton growing season isn't quite over yet, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist Sandy Stewart said cotton yield losses are expected to be more severe than other crops this year.
“The persistent rains and overcast skies early in the season caused cotton plants to develop shallow root systems and stunt out early.
“Recent timely rains are causing the plants to begin to grow.”
Harvest was expected to begin in late August on the state's half-million-acre cotton crop.
“This year has been unusual as Louisiana farmers adjusted for weather, altered practices and cut losses in a year that has challenged their ability to produce food and fiber for the consuming public,” Lanclos said.
John Chaney writes for the LSU AgCenter. (318-473-6605 or [email protected]).