For the most part, Louisiana's corn crop got off to a very slow start — especially in the south and central regions.

“We could have had over a million acres of corn with the proper weather but south Louisiana never got planted,” says David Lanclos, Louisiana corn specialist. “We didn't have enough rain to get planted really early so we were a bit later planting than is customary. In the end, luckily, that proved not to be a big deal yield-wise.”

Lanclos says dryland corn acres yielded between 140 and 150 bushels per acre. Irrigated corn ended up between 160 and 170 bushels.

“We had some reports coming out of Richland, Tensas, Morehouse and Point Coupee parishes of farmers cutting 190- to 200-bushel fields. Those kinds of high yields were occasional, but were around.”

Jason Kelly began his new job as Arkansas Extension corn/grain sorghum specialist about two-thirds of the way through the growing season. He says he's still “playing a little catch-up. Here's what I know, though: Arkansas had 350,000 acres of corn this year. USDA said we ended up with an average yield of 140 bushels per acre. I agree with that number, which is across both dryland and irrigated — the statistics don't separate the two.”

The Arkansas yield record is 145 bushels, set in 2001.

“We were 5 bushels shy of the record,” says Kelly. “That's nothing to be sad about. This was an exceptional crop.”

Aflatoxin was very quiet this year in both states.

“The guys with any at all said they had one load out of 10 or 12 that was rejected,” says Lanclos. “After blending, the loads went through. Aflatoxin just wasn't an issue.”

Ample moisture helped alleviate aflatoxin worries.

“I was talking to a producer around Jonesboro,” says Kelly with a laugh. “He said this past summer the only thing he had to do to make it rain was start up his irrigation pump. That was a guaranteed rain-starter.”

The past season was one to showcase standout varieties. Lanclos says there was hardly a dud to be found. “The DeKalb 69 series did well. Pioneer 31B13 and 32B39 did great. Terral 26BR10N and 2140 along with 2160 all did well. Dyna Gro 5515 and Garst 8288 also grew great crops.”

Pests and disease pressure was “relatively low” in Arkansas this year. “The only thing that was a bit of a concern was some high winds that came in with thunderstorms in late July,” says Kelly. “During those events, some corn went down. That happened primarily in northeast and eastern parts of the state. That corn wasn't quite mature. A lot of those fields would have yielded a lot more otherwise. When the grain bin across the road blows away, the corn next to it will likely blow over, too.”

Arkansas' verification program has fields all over the state. All irrigated fields in the program had yields hovering at 200 bushels per acre.

The big question both Lanclos and Kelly are being asked: what will corn acreage be next year?

“Everyone is asking that,” says Lanclos. “It's hard to know. According to coffeeshop talk, farmers are very high on cotton and soybeans right now. The prices are very attractive. I think those two crops are going to claim a bunch of acres next year.

“What I see with corn is we'll stay close to half a million acres. There will be some fluctuation in the number of 25,000 to 50,000 acres plus or minus. If corn acres do go down, I think they'll go to cotton — especially in the north.”

Lanclos (also the state soybean specialist) believes soybeans are the huge story. The price and the past growing season “really set us up for some major bean acres. I think we could top 1 million acres with beans — that hasn't been seen in a few years. We had around 800,000 soybean acres this year.”

Kelly suspects Arkansas' corn acreage will remain basically unchanged. “Acreage for next year is hard to guess. There are all kinds of things that will play into that. In talking to producers, I'm hearing they're planning to plant the same as last year. Early indications are that corn acreage isn't going to go down due to high prices for cotton or soybeans.”

If there is a drop, Kelly expects early-season soybeans will get the acres.

“There are a lot of folks contracting for those fine August soybean prices.”

Regarding grain sorghum, Kelly says Arkansas ended up at an 85-bushel yield average on 230,000 acres. The record is 86 bushels.

“In fact, USDA estimates a month ago had us at 86 bushels, but they've dropped us back a bushel. I think the grain sorghum acres are likely to stay about the same next year. If you look at the averages, sorghum doesn't seem to fluctuate as much as other crops. We're always around that 200,000- to 250,000-acre mark.”

Lanclos says Louisiana's grain sorghum acreage is unlikely to shift much either.

“I think we'll stay exactly where we're at with grain sorghum — in between 175,000 and 200,000 acres. It would be a surprise to see either a big bump or reduction because the price hasn't fluctuated much. In the parishes where it is grown, sorghum is a great rotational crop. Producers typically use it as a third-year rotation between corn and beans.”

This year, Louisiana grain sorghum yield numbers were average to slightly above. While it wasn't a bumper crop, the state averaged between 85 and 95 bushels per acre.

“Right now, we're gearing up for producer meetings,” says Lanclos. “These meetings, for once, should hold a lot more smiling faces. This was a good year all around. A lot of producers will be buying new equipment, new vehicles, some additional land. Hopefully 2003 will only be the start of a great string of growing seasons.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com