The Delta, on the cusp of corn harvest, harbors a crop many are excited about. With adequate moisture — more than adequate in some areas — and mild temperatures for much of the growing season, the crop shows great promise.
Harvest has begun in southwest Arkansas around Chicot County.
“Producers with batch dryers are going in with a little higher moisture content. But it'll be another week to 10 days before harvest kicks off in earnest across the state,” says Jeremy Ross, Arkansas Extension corn verification coordinator.
Early in the season, Ross thought another state yield record was in the works. But some problems are showing up that weren't expected.
“So, I think we'll be right at record yields, but it would surprise me if we actually beat the 145-bushel record. We'll probably hit around 140 bushels — but I may be pleasantly surprised.”
Over the last couple of weeks, some of the state's 360,000 acres of corn have gone down. The storm that knocked out power in Memphis also hit Arkansas cornfields. Ross says there is now corn around Forrest City and Tucker that is either leaning badly or already on the ground.
And, as in other Delta states, there's the nitrogen problem. “The year was really good for corn in many ways. Temperatures were almost ideal for pollination — we rarely hit 90. And things are still good, although we're beginning to pick up some nutrient deficiencies that weren't apparent early on. The suspicion is that's due to all the rain removing some nitrogen,” says Ross.
“Even some of the better farmers are saying their crops look to have run out of nitrogen at the end. We had the wettest May and June on record, so that had to affect the crop. An example of how wet it's been: the verification field in Jonesboro had over 17 inches of rain this year.”
Louisiana producers are beginning to bring in their 500,000 acres of corn.
“This year, our dryland corn faced a similar obstacle as last year: it was too dry early,” says David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension corn and grain sorghum specialist. “What saved us is that when it finally started raining, the corn was just entering the reproductive stages. That made our crop. If that rain hadn't shown up, we'd have been in dire straits.”
Lanclos has heard early yields as low as 110 bushels to a high of 180 bushels.
“I haven't had a lot of lodging problems,” he says. “I think that's attributable to good scouting for corn borers. The borers were around and some treatments were made, but they were controlled.”
Regarding Louisiana's grain sorghum, Lanclos says he's “well pleased. Producers are currently harvesting with a disk right behind the combine and that will only help us next year. I'd say 90 percent of the fields I've seen harvested — especially in parishes very susceptible to corn borers like Concordia, Catahoula, Avoyelles, Point Coupee, Rapides — are going from between 70 bushels and 120 bushels per acre.”
Tennessee had quite a bit of corn planted early. But, due to flooding, some 40,000 acres in the west and 10,000 to 12,000 acres in mid-Tennessee were lost. Most of those acres were replanted in soybeans. Acreage-wise, the state is about the same as last year: around 620,000 acres for grain and about 30,000 acres for silage.
“Some of our early corn experienced rainfall that was several inches over the norm,” says Angela Thompson, Tennessee Extension corn specialist. “As a result, those fields lost nitrogen. Where producers couldn't get back in to side-dress, the corn appears to be finishing up early. Where side-dressing was accomplished, the corn looks to be a normal finishing pace.”
Another big plus for the corn crop were mild temperatures in June that were “fantastic” for pollination, says Thompson.
“We've got heavier southwestern corn borer and earworm pressure this year. In areas without Bt corn, those pests are an issue. I'm still iffy on how the later-planted corn will turn out. We always encourage Bt corn be planted if it's after mid-May. If you're a producer in an area where there are lots of European or southwestern corn borer moths, you really need to step up scouting.”
“We're moving into harvest now,” says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist. “Some of the early yield reports have been good. We're expecting a record yield level this year. Our previous record was in 2001 at 130 bushels per acre. I'm expecting us to be in the mid-130s for a state average yield.”
With the exception of some isolated fields in the south Delta, Mississippi “certainly hasn't” had much in the way of drought stress all year. For that reason, Larson expects the state's dryland corn to yield respectably. That will boost Mississippi's overall yield picture.
“The northeast part of the state has had many problems with excessive rainfall during the entire season,” says Larson. “That has continued over the last couple of weeks. While that shouldn't hurt the yield potential a lot, it may cause problems in getting the crop out.
“In the northeast, we had excessive rainfall in May and June that stunted the vegetative development. It also created a lot of nitrogen loss. That will limit the yield potential considerably for that part of the state. The rest of the state is so good, though, that it we'll still see a great overall yield.”
Disease and insect pests have been mercifully light. Some Southern rust came into the southeastern region of Mississippi with one of the tropical storms in late June. The rust showed up in early July but, except for limited acreage, didn't cause yield reductions.
Southwestern corn borer populations have been a tad below what Larson has seen over the last couple of years. There have still been substantial numbers, but nothing out of the norm.
USDA has Mississippi at 550,000 acres of corn — a figure Larson expects to be revised down a bit. “Fields are wet right now and if we get some more rain and wind, I'm worried that a considerable amount of lodging will be seen. Barring that, though, everything looks very good.”