As combines began to strip Mid-South cornfields of grain, the second week of August brought temperatures well above 100 degrees. It also brought the realization that cornfields are where cool breezes go to die.
“The heat in the corn is almost unreal,” says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist. “You get out of the truck, even for a couple of minutes, and get back in wringing wet.”
The Mississippi corn harvest is just beginning. “We were 2 percent harvested as of Aug. 5. As you get into the extreme southern area of the corn-growing area, the more harvest is rolling. It will be (the week of Aug. 13) before the Delta region is harvesting.”
Larson says preliminary yield numbers have mostly been “very, very good. That's especially true of the irrigated yields. Dryland yields will be all over the board depending on rainfall. But even the dryland crop has thus far been very pleasing for most growers.”
Current harvest conditions are excellent. It's extremely dry, “which is fantastic for making progress when harvesting corn. Growers are waiting for their crops to dry down a bit more before cutting.”
Corn in the southern part of the Delta is around 17 to 20 percent moisture. South of Yazoo City, “the moisture is a bit lower and that's why most of the state's harvest activity is in that area.”
Like Larson, David Lanclos is pleased with the harvest weather. Corn is being combined all over Louisiana, although the LSU AgCenter corn specialist says many farmers are waiting for the crop to dry down a bit more.
“Isolated fields that are very dry are still being harvested. Most are waiting, though, because the forecast is for hot, dry weather (until around Aug. 20). Almost perfect harvest weather is predicted.
“That'll allow growers to let the crop dry down even more. They'll save drying costs and not be docked at the elevator for higher moisture. I don't blame them for trying it. The corn is standing, it looks good, and the yield is there.”
In Arkansas, irrigated corn that was “managed correctly” is yielding very well. “The low end numbers are around 180 bushels,” says Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension corn specialist. “The better corn is running 220 bushels-plus.”
The USDA says the Arkansas corn yield should average 153 bushels. “That would be a record by 7 or 8 bushels. That sounds like a lot, but it's certainly possible. Some of the yields being reported are exciting.
“The Arkansas harvest is just getting started. A lot of the corn being harvested right now is higher moisture and going into bins for drying.
“Producers without on-farm storage are yet to be in the field much. There will be a lot more direct-to-elevator corn being cut (the week of Aug. 13). Rice and other crops aren't far from harvest so soon there will be pressure to get this corn out.”
Early Louisiana corn yield numbers are impressive. Dryland yields are “better than we anticipated. Most of the low yields have been in the 60-bushel range. There are a lot of 80-bushel yields. There have even been some 120-bushel dryland fields.”
Irrigated full-season corn is yielding as high as 240 bushels per acre. “We're getting a lot of consistent 190-bushel to 200-bushel corn at the elevators.
“We knew the corn crop was solid, but it's bit stronger than we thought. That's probably based on two factors: cooler weather during pollination and rainfall prior to physiological maturity.”
In many areas of Louisiana there were dry growing conditions for corn. But the rains came “when there was still an opportunity to improve yields and test weights.”