Entering his fifth year as Arkansas’ corn/grain sorghum verification program coordinator, Kevin Lawson has prepared corn growers a quick-reference tool. Interested producers can find “Corn Quick Facts” – a page chock-full of easy-to-understand facts and charts – at their local Extension office or on-line  here.

Lawson spoke with Delta Farm Press in early January about the 2010 verification fields and his expectations for 2011. Among his comments:

Rundown of the 2010 verification fields?

“In corn, we try to stay with irrigated fields. For 2010, I had seven cornfields to work with and they were scattered all over the state – several in the northeast, southeast, central Arkansas and one along I-40 near Wheatley. Even with the poor growing conditions across the state, the verification fields still averaged 204 bushels per acre.

“The fields in the southern part of the state – I-40 south -- did a bit better. The growers were able to get planted earlier and they missed some of the heat that hit northeast Arkansas.

“Honestly, I was tickled with that yield. I was very scared of what yields might be because of all the heat and drought. The state average was 150 bushels, so we were 50-plus bushels better.

“We only had one grain sorghum field in Woodruff County, just north of Brinkley. It was irrigated and cut about 117 bushels per acre. That’s really impressive because it had to come through some early-season issues to overcome.”

Insects or disease?

“Pests and disease weren’t a huge deal in 2010. We did have an aflatoxin scare, like everyone else. But the crop ended up being clean and 2010 wasn’t terrible for disease and insects. The heat was the main concern.”

Plans for 2011?

The verification program will be nearly the same. We’ll have some fields in the Arkansas River Valley, a couple in the southeast and three, or four, fields in the northeast.

“I hope 2011 planting will be early like it was in 2010. Last year, we planted early and got the crop harvested early. That was nice.

“Since we had such a dry fall and winter, many of our fields are already ready for seed. A lot of growers will just have drop in and plant. If we can get a warm spring and plant early it will give us a leg up.

“That’s what happened in 2010 and was a key to success – the average planting date was April 4. In the past four years, the average planting date was April 11. So, in 2010, we were an entire week ahead of the norm.”

On the ‘Corn Quick Facts’…

“It came about when a few county Extension agents said ‘we need the recommendations in a compact form.’

“Actually, the impetus was the pre-tassel application of nitrogen, a newer recommendation. Some folks wanted a fact sheet on that and fertilization.

“I sat down at the end of the growing season and was playing around with data – average days from planting to harvest, days for each growth stage, etc. I took that data and said ‘I can combine all of this into a sheet that the agents can use.’ I put it together with Jason Kelley (University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture feed grains specialist).

“This doesn’t replace the Corn Handbook. But it’s a place folks can go quickly for updated corn references. It’s really been a success.

“I’m about start work on a similar page on grain sorghum. Growers can look for that in a few weeks.”