Under a steamy, cloudless sky, Delta farmers wiped brows covered in sweat, but there were no complaints to be heard among the large crowd attending Delta Research and Extension Center’s recent soybean and corn field day. At a time when much of the country’s corn and soybean acreage is wilting under unprecedented drought, Mississippi’s corn growers are expected to produce record corn yields in 2012.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s July 23 report on crop progress, only 3 percent of the nation’s corn crop is rated in excellent condition, while 45 percent of the corn crop nationally is rated as poor to very poor. In comparison, Mississippi’s 840,000-acre corn crop is expected to top the 148-bushel-per-acre mark set by state growers in 2007.

Report: 45 percent of U.S. corn crop very poor to poor condition

Delta crops endure as heat wears on — photo gallery

“For the most part, Mississippi has been very blessed this year in terms of crop conditions. Our corn crop here looks a whole lot better than the crop looks in the Midwest,” said Mississippi Extension corn specialist Erick Larson. “My expectations are very high for this year’s corn crop.”

Larson is expecting the state’s corn producers to set a new state yield record with the upcoming 2012 harvest. “It is an exceptionally early crop this year. Warm temperatures early in the growing season, and especially during March, set the state’s 2012 corn crop up for an early harvest. We accumulated four to five times the number of heat units we would normally accumulate during March,” he said.

With harvest expected to be in full swing by the week of July 30, Larson attributes the early maturity of the 2012 crop to timely planting and moderate temperatures during the crop’s most productive stages, especially during grain filling.

In 2012, Mississippi’s daytime and nighttime temperatures in early June were cooler than normal, contributing to a corn crop that is expected to mature two to three weeks earlier than normal. While corn harvest across the state normally kicks into high gear by August 10, combines were cutting 2012 test weights by July 23.

Further contributing to this year’s potential bumper corn crop was relatively light insect and disease pressure. This is especially true for the earlier-planted corn crop. In recent days, growers have documented some incidents of gray leaf spot in fields planted to continuous corn. Southern rust disease also is beginning to affect some of the later maturing fields.

Corn acreage across the state has remained relatively consistent over recent years with small gains within the 700,000-acre to 900,000-acre range due, in part, to the many agronomic benefits offered by a corn-cotton or a corn-soybean crop rotation. The 840,000 acres of corn planted statewide in 2012 represents an increase of 30,000 acres over 2011.