Louisiana corn producers are working quickly to get this year’s harvest complete. Spotty afternoon rain showers slowed harvest for some, but more favorable weather recently has allowed farmers the opportunity to try to catch up.
“Average” seems the word to best describe this year’s corn yields. The crop got off to a late start due to wet weather. Planting was delayed as growers waited for their fields to dry.
Once the crop was in the ground and growing, dry conditions were the norm for much of the state. The hot, dry weather had a negative effect on yields, especially on non-irrigated fields.
“The rains didn’t come early enough for many growers,” said Dan Fromme, LSU AgCenter state corn specialist. “The date you planted also made a difference.”
Late-planted corn yields are generally lower because the higher nighttime temperatures of summer hamper pollination, meaning fewer kernels and smaller ears.
Dennis Burns, LSU AgCenter agriculture and natural resource agent in Catahoula, Concordia and Tensas parishes, said the weather also may have affected crop rotation schedules that could be responsible for some disappointing yields.
“Some of it went in as corn behind corn when normally we’re in a corn to soybean or corn to cotton rotation,” Burns said. “This year, with all the rains that came, and it being later, the fields that dried out first were perhaps corn in 2017 and went back to corn.”
Burns also said yields have fluctuated from field to field.
“Yields are anywhere from low and a little disappointing to really good. It doesn’t matter whether it’s irrigated or not. It just varies according to the field,” he said.
Chad Evans farms just outside of Harrisonburg in Catahoula Parish. He has seen firsthand how yields vary from field to field.
“The first corn we cut was pretty good,” Evans said. “What we’re in now is a little weak.”
Evans said most of his corn crop is irrigated, but his late-planted corn is yielding lower. “What we cut recently was some of the later-planted corn. It’s a big yield difference,” he said.
Evans does have some dryland corn, but he said it was on “strong ground” and he is optimistic that it will yield higher than his late-planted fields.
From their observations of corn fields across the state, both Fromme and Burns expect the harvest to be average and will certainly not be a bin-buster for Louisiana corn farmers.
“I think it will be an overall average corn crop,” Burns said. “I think there’s been enough low-yielding areas to offset anything that has been above average.”
According the LSU AgCenter Ag Summary, the five-year state average for corn yields is approximately 178 bushels per acre, which includes a record yield of 186 bushels set in 2013 and nearly matched last year.