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Delta corn crop: big to small

North Delta corn producers finally have a crop in the ground, but it did not happen without some major struggles, according to Extension grain specialists in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

“Everybody has planted just about all the corn they're going to plant,” said Tennessee Extension corn specialist Angela Thompson. “I haven't heard the final number on planted acres. We were targeting 700,000 acres, but we will probably come up short of that. We just ran out of time.”

Thompson was referring to a long, wet spring with few ideal planting days that pushed corn planting later and later. As of late May and early June, however, Mother Nature was starting to cooperate.

The west Tennessee crop “is actually looking pretty good,” Thompson said. “We finally have some heat and there is plenty of moisture in the ground.”

Emerged corn “is growing by leaps and bounds. We're finally getting to the nitrogen, and the root system is starting to grow.”

Thompson said that very little corn was planted in west Tennessee in March, “and the percentage of April-planted corn is down as well. There is more May-planted corn than we typically have. And we're going to have more June-planted soybeans than we normally have.”

Thompson said whether later-planted corn in the state suffers yield reductions “depends on the weather in July. With the moisture we have now, we're in real good shape, even with a late crop. Obviously, if we run out of moisture, it could present some problems at tasseling when it's going to be hotter. We'll have to wait and see.”

Thompson is advising growers “to get lay-by applications down as quickly as they can. We also have to see where our southwestern corn borer population peaks. There may be some areas where we have to spray for corn borer this year because we're tasseling later.”

Mississippi Extension corn specialist Erick Larson says the state's corn crop “is everywhere from tasseling to all across the board because we had such a wide window for planting. But overall, we've had to do very little irrigation up to this point because we have been wet and had lots of rain.

“Our dryland crop is in good shape overall,” noted Larson, and this could help bring up the state's overall average yield. “If we can approach 150 bushels on dryland corn, we could bump our overall yield another 10 to 25 bushels an acre.”

Early-season rainfall resulted in poor stands in a lot of low-lying areas, which resulted in a significant amount of replanting. “In some areas, it's caused a lot of early-season nitrogen loss and has caused some difficulty with both herbicide and nitrogen applications.”

On the nitrogen applications, frequent rainfall coupled with delays in getting other field operations accomplished, caused growers “to miss their nitrogen applications because corn got too large to get through the field with sidedress rigs. Because of that, we had to go into an emergency mode, where we were applying granular nitrogen by air, which is a much more expensive method of applying nitrogen. But we had to get it done before nitrogen deficiency stunted the crop and reduced yield potential.”

Larson said in many cases, the plant's root system “is not nearly as extensive as last year. This has caused a few more nutrient-related, early-season deficiencies and growth problems than we had last year.”

The excessive rainfall will “limit our irrigated productivity a little bit compared to last year,” Larson said. “But the crop may prove to be more profitable because we haven't had to irrigate any of the corn up to tasseling stage so far this year.”

Later-planted corn will likely encounter some late-season pests, noted Larson. “Second and third generation corn borers will really favor that late-planted corn — if it's non-Bt corn — and potentially cause a lot more damage than corn planted in a normal time frame.”

Late-season disease “can potentially cause some yield loss if it develops in the state,” Larson said. “Normally, it comes in late July, and most of our normal-planted corn is very close to maturity by then and our yield losses are usually minimal. It's more of a concern with late-planted corn.

Larson noted that by early June, corn producers were still planting double-cropped corn after wheat and planting in areas drying up as floodwaters recede.

According to Arkansas Extension corn specialist Jason Kelley, “some of the corn planted in the southern part of the state is silking, while corn in northeast Arkansas has only been in the ground three weeks. The range of growth stage is really wide this year.

“We've fought rain, rain and more rain. We did catch a break about the end of March when there was a lot of corn planted. Then it rained some more and a lot more was planted. It's been a struggle this year. But overall the crop looks good even with the late-planted crop. It came out of the ground and took off running. This stretch of dry weather the last two weeks (late May and early June) has really helped.

“The crop has suffered through some micronutrient deficiencies, primarily in zinc. But we put a lot of foliar zinc out and that helped; so has the warm weather.”

Kelley noted that there are the usual concerns about foliar diseases and corn borers hitting late-planted corn. “Our research has shown that the later you plant, the more likely you'll get a benefit from a fungicide.”

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