Brothers' banner corn crop

BATESVILLE, Ark. -- With a season of wild weather behind it, the Harmon brothers' corn crop is ready for a trip to the elevator. And, so far, as the harvester sweeps through the brittle plants, it looks like a banner year.

"Yields are really high and we couldn't be happier," says Keith. "Considering everything, to end up with a crop like this is a blessing."

The endless rains that dogged and hurt other crops in the state didn't bother the Harmon's corn crop. The rains did keep their center pivots idle, though. The brothers had 825 acres of corn that they didn't irrigate once.

"All our corn this year was dryland. If you'd told me that last winter, I'd never have believed it," says Ronnie. "Sometimes you get surprised and it's a good thing."

The brothers are cutting this 155-acre cornfield at 15 to 16 percent moisture. In working with Pioneer, the brothers were asked to plant 11 varieties in the field's central portion. All varieties appear in stellar shape.

"We got a good stand with a lot of rains early. The plants popped out and took off," says Keith. "We side-dressed with urea when the crop was 6 inches tall. We also put on Steadfast and atrazine and we didn't cultivate."

The corn, he says, got rains it needed and a lot it didn't. But the crop seems to have handled any excess moisture well.

But rain did push the brothers into something unplanned at season's start. In a bid to put off any potential problems with leaching, "two weeks before tassel, we flew on 100 pounds of ammonium nitrate," says Keith. "After that, we kept getting rains all the way until black layer. We were concerned about the rain leaching all our nitrogen. So we decided to go ahead and fly that extra on. Most of our ground has good internal drainage, so we needed that safety net."

The two didn't notice any problems prior to putting the extra ammonium nitrate out.

"It was just a gut feeling that we needed to do it. There wasn't even one day where we saw leaves twisting. It looked healthy throughout."

There wasn't any disease or insect pressure.

Dry down was a little slower than in years past. "But we feel that conditions were right to keep things green longer and we chose to eke out some more of the crop's potential," says Keith. "I think, for the most part, corn farmers in Independence County appear to have done the same. And it seems to have worked. Other farmers I speak with seem to be pretty happy with their corn."

The rains did hurt another of the brothers' crops.

"Our wheat yields, because of a lot of rain at harvest, were down 20 to 25 percent," says Ronnie. "We also had trouble with low test weights."

That also led to extremely late planted double-crop soybeans.

"We finally got all our beans planted on July 16," says Keith. "For the most part, especially considering the weather they've faced, the beans look good."

Keith has entered a Roundup Ready variety (RRBelle1520) into the National Corn Growers Association dryland yield competition that cut 202 bushels. Ronnie turned in a Pioneer variety (32R25) that cut almost 215 bushels.

"When we started growing corn in 1989, our goal was to get up to 100 bushels per acre," says Keith. "As the years progressed, we kept setting higher goals. We hit 100 bushels, then 150 bushels, then 175 bushels, and were after 200 bushels. Now, we've busted that and have to shoot for another mark."

How about shooting for 250 bushels per acre?

"Well, that would be something," says Keith with a laugh. "But maybe we'll have to work up to it instead of taking that big of a bite."

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