Many Arkansas corn and grain sorghum farmers will look back on 2007 with fondness. And why not? Prices were something to smile about, and yields were nothing short of remarkable.

“It was just a phenomenal year really; the producers did everything right, and it paid off,” said Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. “The guys who did everything right and stuck to Extension recommendations, those are the guys who came out on top this year.”

Corn farmers were rewarded with an estimated record statewide yield of 160 bushels, which demolished the old record of 146, set last year. Kelley said the 160-bushel estimate could be revised upwards.

“You know, 160 bushels beats Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and all the surrounding states except Louisiana. Our yields are up there with Midwest yields, comparable to Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Minnesota. And we’re not all that far from Nebraska.”

What it means, Kelley added, is “we’re not just the small players anymore, at least yield-wise.”

The state’s farmers planted 590,000 acres of corn in the spring — 410,000 more corn acres than last year.

Grain sorghum farmers can also point to their crop with pride. They planted 220,000 acres of grain sorghum, up almost four-fold from 2006.

They also set a record, harvesting an average statewide yield of 93 bushels per acre, which eclipsed the old record of 87 bushels. It was enough to beat Oklahoma’s 53-bushel average, Kansas’ 79-bushel average, and Texas’ 69-bushel average.

“We did better than everybody surrounding us except Louisiana and Missouri,” Kelley noted.

The Extension specialist finds the yields of corn and grain sorghum, especially corn, amazing since the season began with many first-time corn growers.

“This was followed with a devastating freeze in April, which caused many farmers to have to replant corn late with scarce seed that included hybrid varieties not necessary adapted to Arkansas’ climate.

“It’s a reflection of how good our producers did this year managing that crop and how important it was getting rain at a critical time in early July,” Kelley said.

High yields mean farmers were in a position to take advantage of high prices this year. Corn prices also raised grain sorghum prices.

“Grain sorghum has been positive. There’s a big demand for it in France and Mexico. European bans on biotech products caused many European countries to turn to U.S. non-modified grain sorghum to sustain livestock operations.”

Kelley expects farmers to plant a substantial amount of corn and grain sorghum again next year.

e-mail: ljames@uaex.edu