Harvest of the Mid-South’s dryland corn crop is under way with yields ranging from very good to very bad, depending on the fortunes of rainfall. Potential for the irrigated crop looks good despite higher than normal temperatures, say Extension corn specialists.
Mississippi corn yields could approach the record established in 2007 of 150 bushels per acre, despite a production season short on rainfall and heavy on irrigation in some areas, says Erick Larson, Extension corn specialist.
The crop “is coming along quicker than normal. We’ve had higher temperatures than normal during the entire growing season. The corn reached physiological maturity seven days winding up in the early-planted corridor of corn in the southern to central part of the state.”
Yield reports have been impressive so far, according to Larson. “The irrigated corn looks really good, from 175 bushels up to 250 bushels an acre. The dryland crop is all across the board. We have some that’s been disked up and some is yielding over 200 bushels an acre.”
Larson noted that the south Delta to the central Delta of Mississippi “has been extremely dry. As you farther northeast, we’ve had more timely and significant rainfall. We’re still a couple of weeks away from when they get wound up in the northeast part of the state.
“Overall, we have a substantially better irrigated crop than we’ve had the last two years, even though we’ve had a lot of heat, and we’ve gone a long time without rainfall. I expect, yields will be near the average record in 2007. I don’t know that it will break that record, but it will be close.”
An early-planted crop is one reason for the higher yield potential, according to Larson. “Most of the corn had started through its early reproductive period before it got really hot. Fortunately, the part of the state where it was the driest, the south Delta, is irrigated.”
Harvest of the dryland corn crop is under way in Louisiana during the first week in August. According to Extension corn specialist John Kruse, “I’m seeing a wide fluctuation in yield, depending on whether or not they received a few timely rains. I’m hearing reports from 140 to 160 bushels to close to crop failure — 50 bushels or less. Heat during pollination, along with a number of overcast days, may have negatively impacted pollination, especially in the dryland corn.”
Northern corn leaf blight was severe on some farms, noted Kruse. “Rogers Leonard, our Extension entomologist, reported that spider mites reached treatable levels, which is unusual for corn.”
Kruse said 99 percent of the crop had reached black layer by the first week in August. “We’re waiting to get the moisture levels down to harvestable levels.”
While much of the west Tennessee corn crop was planted early this season, hot weather has likely robbed the crop of some yield potential, according to Extension corn specialist Angela McClure.
“The heat has really worried us. As of Aug. 8, we had 21 days of 95-degree plus temperatures. We did get a few showers this weekend (Aug. 7-8). We had about 70 percent of our corn planted in April and should be getting real close to black layer. Anything planted in March or early April is done.”
Some of the dry areas of the region could begin harvest by the last week in August, with the bulk of harvest in full swing by early September. McClure doesn’t expect yields to match last year’s estimate of 139 bushels per acre.
McClure has observed a higher occurrence of crazy top in corn. “In some fields, it’s spotty. In others, it’s 15 percent to 20 percent of the plants. That could potentially reduce yields.”
Crazy top can be caused by a soil pathogen that can be deposited in the whorl during flooding, causing abnormal growth later on.
Harvest of the Arkansas corn crop is under way south of I-40, “and we’re getting some really good yields,” said Kevin Lawson, corn and grain sorghum verification coordinator with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. “We’re hearing yields ranging from 185 bushels to as high as 245 bushels on irrigated land. Dryland is down around 125 bushels to 130 bushels. Water or drought has driven everything.”
Producers are keeping a close eye on weather systems as harvest gets under way. Many recall the toll that heavy rains took on last year’s crop, when it wasn’t surprising to see all four major crops, rice, corn, cotton and soybeans sitting in fields waiting for harvest conditions to improve.
Hopefully, an open corn harvest is a good sign for harvest of remaining crops.