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Late planting, dry weather sapping corn yield potentialLate planting, dry weather sapping corn yield potential

Dry weather continues to sap yield potential from the Mid-South corn crop.There was a lot more May-planted corn this spring, which could bring more problems as the season progresses.Irrigation is running at full speed in dry areas, but even the irrigated crop is needing a rain.

Elton Robinson 1

June 22, 2011

5 Min Read

The Mid-South corn crop is hanging in there, according to state corn specialists, although dry weather and widespread late planting have probably compromised yield potential. Here’s more:


Dry weather continues to sap yield potential from Louisiana’s dryland corn crop, according John Kruse, Extension corn and cotton specialist, for the state. “If it’s dryland corn, it’s suffering and losing yield potential daily. On irrigated ground, growers are doing everything they can to keep up with irrigation schedules during the long, but critical phase from tasseling to hard dough stage where it’s using so much water.”

Kruse said the northern two-thirds of the Louisiana’s primary corn-growing region “has not received any appreciable rain in quite a while.”

Kruse noted that the Louisiana corn crop “is having a little problem finishing out the ears. We’re not getting that last three-quarters to an inch-and-a-half of the cob fully developed. I attribute part of that to drought stress. Even under irrigation, we’ve had very hot and dry days. I’m not sure the crop had complete pollination.

“We also had a quirky situation back in early May. We were getting the warm days, but we were also getting very cool nights. I’m not sure what effect that had on the overall crop. For a while, it did seem to slow down.”

Kruse said the height of the 2011 crop appears to be a lot shorter than normal. “Most of it is still getting to around 16 leaves, but the internode length seems to be shorter. More than just a few fields are only about head high or a little taller, which is unusual for us and the varieties we tend to grow here.”

Kruse says growers are having to irrigate multiple crops at the same time. “It’s been a big challenge for a lot of producers. There are only so many people and so much rollout pipe to go around.”

Kruse projects a corn crop that will be close to its average of around 155 bushels an acre. “There is a gap between the irrigated and the dryland crops. Growers will make 200 bushels under irrigated conditions, while dryland producers will be lucky to get 100 bushels.”


“We’ve had a very challenging springtime,” said Erick Larson, Extension grain specialist, Mississippi State University. “The southern part of the state has been substantially drier than the northern parts. The Delta region of Mississippi was planted on time for the most part, “except for a few counties just south of Memphis, where floodwater caused a few issues.”

If dry conditions continue, “it’s going to put a lot of demand on our irrigation scheduling through the rest of the season, and it will likely reduce our production potential unless we have a little moisture to help us out.”

Larson advises irrigators to “probe the soil and pay close attention to the soil moisture levels. Try to irrigate relative to those soil moisture levels. Don’t just adhere to a weekly schedule.”

Larson said dryland corn in central and south Mississippi “is in a real perilous condition, with a very low yield potential expected. Hopefully, it pollinates and rains sometime soon to help it fill out some kernels.”

There are also concerns about late-planted dryland corn in the northeast part of the state. “It’s gone well into May for a lot of acres and has a long way to go before tasseling. It’s wilted and relatively small right now. It could respond to a timely rainfall, if we get one within the next two or three weeks.”

Larson says late-planted corn “needs to be scouted for insects. There may be issues with armyworms or corn borers coming into play that you might not have to worry as much about with a normal-planted crop.”

For more information on late-season planting and crop management see http://www.mississippi-crops.com/2011/06/10/after-the-flood-row-crop-replanting/.


Angela McClure, corn and soybean specialists for the University of Tennessee, says the state’s corn crop “is looking okay. We’ve probably had more May-planted corn than we had hoped for this year. We had too many wet days in April and early May.”

Some corn planted in late March and early April “is getting ready to tassel now.”

Much of the west Tennessee area received between 0.3 inch and 0.5 inch of rainfall Saturday (June 11), “which will help. But we certainly do need some more rain.”

McClure says west Tennessee corn producers with later-planted corn should scout for gray leaf spot, “especially if they planted fairly late into May. In areas where growers have access to aerial application, we may have a few more acres sprayed with a fungicide.”

McClure says growers are concerned about aflatoxin in corn “because we had more show up last year than we were used to seeing. We’ve had more calls about the use of Afla-Guard on fields. It’s an early application well ahead of tasseling, and there’s no way to predict whether we will have conditions that favor disease at tasseling. So target fields that you feel would be most likely to have a problem, like fields that had high levels of aflatoxin last year.”


The Arkansas corn crop is also shaping up to be an average crop, although this isn’t bad considering what it’s been through, says Kevin Lawson, Arkansas corn and grain sorghum research verification program coordinator.

“There seems to be a line around Dumas and McGehee. South of there, we have an excellent crop, although they are watering heavily. There was some hail damage in the Chicot County area Monday (June 13), but it was spotty.”

Corn in the northeast part of the state “is stunted and uneven. They had rains early, then they had sandstorms on Saturday (June 11).

“Corn producers are doing the best job they can, although many of them are worn out already, and we’re not even halfway through with the crop. Many of them are frustrated right now.”

About the Author(s)

Elton Robinson 1

Editor, Delta Farm Press

Elton joined Delta Farm Press in March 1993, and was named editor of the publication in July 1997. He writes about agriculture-related issues for cotton, corn, soybean, rice and wheat producers in west Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and southeast Missouri. Elton worked as editor of a weekly community newspaper and wrote for a monthly cotton magazine prior to Delta Farm Press. Elton and his wife, Stephony, live in Atoka, Tenn., 30 miles north of Memphis. They have three grown sons, Ryan Robinson, Nick Gatlin and Will Gatlin.

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