Contrary to some opinions, maybe corn and the Delta do mix. This year's Arkansas corn crop is simply phenomenal, says William Johnson, Arkansas Extension corn specialist.
“The last couple of years, the rainfall has been great for Arkansas' grain crops. We've had great rains in May and June — which typically makes a good corn crop.”
How good has this year been? Johnson says some verification fields out from under the pivot are cutting 160 bushels. Irrigated fields are regularly cutting between 210 and 220 bushels. Johnson says a verification field in Pocohontas, Ark., averaged 218 bushels.
“I spoke with a farmer in Holly Grove who said he was half finished with harvest and his average yield is 202 dry. That's amazing.”
Arkansas — which has about 180,000 to 190,000 acres of corn in the state — is a little ahead of neighboring Mississippi in harvesting corn.
“With the yields we're cutting — and if some insurance program for another crop doesn't lift its head — I expect corn acres to increase. I'd like to see us at 250,000 acres. In 1998, we reached 240,000 acres. But in the 1930s, we used to grow 1 million acres of corn in the state.”
Arkansas' record yield is a 130-bushel average. This year, “USDA says the average will be 133 bushels. Some 80 percent of the state's corn is irrigated, and most of that should hit 150 to 200 bushels. If that holds, our state average might exceed 150 bushels. Even the dry land corn in southwest Arkansas did well,” says Johnson.
Meanwhile in Mississippi, the yields have been very good. The problem is that farmers have had to delay harvest significantly because of wet August weather.
“The wet weather, humidity and low cloud cover have slowed the grain from drying down. With drying rates slowed, harvest has slowed as well. Farmers are shooting for around 15 percent so there's no dockage,” says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist.
Normally by mid-August, most of the corn is already at 15 percent moisture, says Larson. “The corn in the Delta counties is usually harvested by now. This year, harvesting on Delta-county corn is probably 50 percent complete. The eastern part of the state is even further behind.”
This late harvesting is becoming a concern for several reasons.
First, the longer the corn stays in the field the more likely field loss will occur, says Larson. A wind storm could come through that leads to lodging.
“Second, the third generation of Southwestern corn borers tends to start causing considerable stalk lodging between the end of August and the first part of September. The losses from that will start to show up shortly.
“Third, we're also fighting problems with morningglories growing up and causing harvesting problems. This wet weather we've been having all through the season has helped the weeds to take off.”
Even with harvesting troubles, Larson says the state will likely set a new yield record.
“Our previous record was 1999 with 117 bushels per acre. This year we'll probably match or exceed that. We're seeing no aflatoxin, which we weren't expecting to see anyway. There haven't been any significant drought stress periods which encourage aflatoxin.”
Also of note: Larson says Mississippi has just received a 24-C label for the use of Gramoxone Max as a pre-harvest aid for corn. That will help with controlling morningglories.
“We're seeing great milo in Mississippi. Most of the fields are making between 100 to 150 bushels per acre,” says Larson. “I think there will be more milo and corn planted next year.”
As with corn, Arkansas' milo is super. Farmers are picking 5,000 to 6,000 pounds non-irrigated, says Johnson. Irrigated fields are producing 8,000 to 9,000 pounds.
“The situation with nematodes in Arkansas soybean fields along with the current yield numbers lead me to believe milo acres will double next year to between 250,000 and 300,000 acres,” says Johnson.