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Haves and have-nots: Mid-South's corn crop inconsistent

Over half of Louisiana's corn crop has been harvested. Thus far, yields are inconsistent and largely dependent on where rains fell.

“We've got producers doing very, very well and those doing very poorly,” said David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension corn specialist. “There's not much in between those extremes.

“I'm hearing numbers from 160 bushels to as high as 220 bushels in some isolated situations. The lowest yields are between 30 and 40 bushels. Portions of southwest and northwest Louisiana didn't get enough rainfall to make an adequate crop.”

When the season's post-mortem is complete, Lanclos believes yields will be 10 to 15 percent down from last year. “That's certainly the way it's shaping up. Usually our irrigated corn hits 150 to 170 bushels and dryland runs from 120 to 150 bushels.”

In much of the crop, producers have had a difficult time drying the crop down. Two factors have contributed to that. “First, we had later planting. Obviously, the later you plant the later the crop's maturity. Second, we got a lot of rain right before black layer. The crop was drought-stressed all the way through kernel fill. But as black layer was fast approaching, rain fell. That may have tricked the plants into staying green a little longer.”

The south-central and irrigated northeast parts of Louisiana — “parishes like Point Coupee and parts of Avoyelles” — are doing well. “Irrigation is certainly paying for itself this year. Even so, many producers have told me their irrigated corn yields are down slightly.”


In general, Mississippi's corn is turning out better than most expected.

“I'm hearing some extremely good irrigated yields — much better than last year,” said Erick Larsen, Mississippi Extension corn specialist. “I attribute that to sunny days of average temperatures during pollination and grain filling.”

Many irrigated corn yields are between 170 bushels and “well over” 200 bushels. Last year, the state average yield was 136 bushels, a record. Even with more variability around the state, Larsen believes the average yield will be within reach of a record.

“Even though rainfall has been sporadic over the summer, we're seeing good dryland yields in areas of the state where harvest has begun. Most of the rains we had during June through mid-July were very timely.”

The dryland corn in southwest Mississippi turned out very well. The eastern part of the state should also produce “some nice corn” because the area received timely rains over the summer.

The north Delta has been among the driest parts of the state — particularly from planting time through June. Corn yields there will suffer, said Larsen. He suspects much of the dryland corn in northern areas will yield less than 100 bushels per acre.

“We're just getting into harvest. Many of those in the field are willing to dry corn or are willing to harvest at 18 to 20 percent moisture. They've been harvesting for 10 days or so. By late August, harvest should be in full swing for everyone.”

One problem Larsen has noted is lodging. During the last weeks of July, Mississippi had “a lot of sporadic thunderstorms that brought winds. The winds caused substantial root lodging problems in some areas — entire plants were pushed over.” That has resulted in harvesting difficulties for some producers.

“The winds hit at exactly the wrong time. The corn plants had heavy ear weight, and the winds exerted enough force to cause lodging. We've had cases of this in the Delta around Leland, Miss., and south from there.”


Early in Arkansas' harvest, Jason Kelley said it's obvious “this is the year of haves and have-nots.”

Kelley, the state Extension corn specialist, said where producers were able to water properly, 200 bushels-plus corn has been the result. “Some irrigated fields are deceptive, though. From the road, they look good. Get out in the crop, though, and some of our yields aren't going to be as good as everyone is hoping.”

In areas without good water, yields have definitely suffered. On dryland, “I'm hearing anywhere from 40 bushels per acre up to 150 bushels. That's a big swing, but any 150-bushel dryland corn is an outlier.”

Statistics from USDA have Arkansas corn at 134 bushels per acre. Last year's yield was 140 bushels per acre.

“About 20 percent of our corn crop is dryland. That acreage is going to pull our average way down. We have some fields in northeast Arkansas that won't even be harvested. Some of the fields up there — even the dry pivot corners — won't make much, if anything.”

With the exception of weed control, Mississippi's grain sorghum looks good.

“I've seen a lot of weed problems,” said Larsen. “That's a difficult problem to deal with in milo since control options are fairly limited. Producers can use a few pre-emergence herbicides and a few postemergence products that primarily have activity on broadleaf weeds. We've had serious troubles with johnsongrass and other annual grasses.”

Glyphosate drift has limited Mississippi's milo acres in recent years. While Larsen hasn't heard of many drift complaints lately, “we have only 40,000 acres of milo now, so that knocks down the chances for a problem. We used to have 100,000 acres.”

In the face of poor weather throughout the growing season, Louisiana's 100,000-acre sorghum crop, about half harvested, “sustained itself,” said Lanclos. “Most of the reports I've gotten have it yielding 100 to 120 bushels. The lowest I've heard is 90 bushels and the highest, 135 bushels.”

Compared to other crops, sorghum is drought-tolerant, said Kelley. “But it still needs good rains when it reaches boot stage. Some fields in Arkansas got that needed rain and some didn't. Milo is like our corn: some looks good and some is burned almost completely up.”

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