Rains may have doused record corn crop

Louisiana was set for what appeared to be a record-breaking year in corn production. Then the rains came, and now the crop is “fair to poor,” an LSU AgCenter specialist says.

David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter corn specialist, made those comments to participants in the Crop Production and Pest Management Field Day at the AgCenter's Northeast Research Station in St. Joseph. And he stressed weather has set the corn crop back this year.

“Corn in Louisiana should be 10 to 12 feet tall,” Lanclos said. “The average right now for much of the state is 7 to 9 feet tall. The average in south Louisiana is 3 to 6 feet tall.”

Planting corn in the state this year began five to seven days later than normal because of moisture, according to Lanclos, who says the LSU AgCenter recommends corn be planted in Louisiana from March 1 until April 15.

To top that off, a period of cooler weather hit later than usual, the corn crop faced heavy rainfall and mineral deficiencies, and hail storms even played a part.

“We had some rain and then it started to dry out, so farmers applied nitrogen,” Lanclos said of the early days of this year's crop. “It looked like the best corn crop Louisiana has ever had. But then we had 9 to 25 inches of rainfall.

“Now, much of the crop has suffered nitrogen loss, and we're seeing a lot of root-pruning in the corn crop.”

Despite the potential problems those situations present for the crop, Lanclos said, Louisiana farmers have more than 500,000 acres devoted to corn this year — slightly more than last year but still a little below the 2002 level.

On the other hand, he said, soybeans are one bright spot for Louisiana farmers. Lanclos said the state's soybean crop is up this year, although rain has hindered planting and growth in some spots.

“We have a good crop in some places and a bad crop in other places,” he said. “We're not looking for a bumper year in beans, but it looks OK.”

Lanclos said about 1 million acres of soybeans were planted in Louisiana this year. According to the Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, published by the LSU AgCenter, 734,000 acres of soybeans were harvested last year.

Corn weed management was another topic discussed during the field day. Bill Williams, an LSU AgCenter specialist stationed at the Northeast Research Station, said producers should pay more attention to managing weeds in their corn crops.

“Very little corn was planted in northeast Louisiana before 1996,” Williams said. “But more producers are beginning to utilize corn in their rotations with cotton, and, because of this, annual grasses are becoming more problematic.”

Producers are encouraged to start weed control programs in the early stages of their corn crops, according to Williams, who said applying pre-emergence herbicide is the easiest method in controlling annual grasses.

On controlling perennial weeds, Williams said fall is the best time of the year for that. He said growers should use 2 quarts of glyphosate to control red vine, while 1 quart is adequate for johnsongrass and alligator weed. Regardless of weed species, Williams stressed timing is critical — these applications need to be made before Oct. 1.

An update on the state's cotton crop also was given during the field day.

Sandy Stewart, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist, said this year's crop is estimated at about 490,000 acres, down from 516,000 acres harvested last year. Corn and bean prices, as well as wet weather, have had a lot to do with the decrease in acres, he said.

“This year's crop is down in a lot of places,” Stewart said. “But considering what it's been through, it looks pretty good.”

Other topics discussed at the field day included an update on cotton planting date research, a report on field crop disease control, precision agriculture for early insect and nematode management, and soybean twin-row production and planting date.

In addition to producers from the area, a group of 4-H'ers from North Dakota and Minnesota attended the field day. The students were invited by Tensas Parish 4-H'er Liz Rachal.

“We put this (visit) together after Liz went to Washington, D.C., two years ago for ‘Citizen Washington Focus,’” said Susan Rachal, Liz's mother. “She met other 4-H'ers with whom she has remained friends. Last year, we went to visit them, and this year, they came to visit us.”

Brittany Hanson, a 16-year-old 4-H'er from Goodridge, Minn., said the trip to Louisiana and the field day were educational — including their first chance to eat crawfish.

“We've had fun and we've met new people,” Hanson said. “We probably wouldn't have had this opportunity if we had not been in 4-H.” As for the crawfish, Hanson said, “It's kind of OK.”

A. Denise Coolman writes for the LSU AgCenter.

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