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Rain delays Louisiana corn, sorghum harvest

Persistent rainfall this year has been both good and bad for Louisiana farmers growing corn and grain sorghum. It has helped them produce the crops, but it could be bad if the rain continues and delays a bountiful harvest, experts and farmers say.

“The crop has reached maturity and needs dry weather to reduce the moisture content in the grain for harvest,” said LSU AgCenter soybean and feed grain specialist David Lanclos. “We need the rain to stop for five to 10 days to let the crop dry for harvest.”

If the rains persist, however, the crop will begin to deteriorate in the fields, and that means reduced yields, declines in grain quality and less profit for farmers, Lanclos explained.

“Timing in rainfall is everything to a farmer,” said LSU AgCenter climatologist Jay Grymes. “Early-season rains are critical to produce a crop, but dry weather is needed to harvest it.”

With more than 750,000 acres of corn planted in the state, farmers need all the time nature can spare to help them harvest, and store or deliver their crop to the market.

“Currently, the corn and grain sorghum crop outlook is good — good yield and good prices,” Lanclos said.

The harvest of grain sorghum also has started — with more than 225,000 acres planted in the state. Persistent rains, however, can cause the grain to sprout in the heads, which decreases grade and price.

With the large grain crops in the field, persistent rains and long lines at the elevators, farmers are looking for any opportunity to start harvesting their crops.

“Some grain sorghum has been harvested in the state with yields higher than normal,” said Lanclos, adding that early reports on yields are ranging from 60 bushels per acre to 100 bushels per acre.

However, with the persistent rainfall and wet fields, the state’s corn harvest is being delayed until the rains slow, corn dries and fields are able to hold the heavier corn harvest equipment.

“As the corn crop dries down, I encourage farmers to begin harvesting when the fields are dry enough to hold the equipment,” said Lanclos, adding, “Many farmers can use mechanical on-farm dryers to reach the desired 15.5 percent moisture.”

Although June and July average monthly rainfall was several inches above normal in the grain-producing parishes of the state, fortunately for farmers, the forecast is for the weather to return to more normal rainfall levels for August.

“We will probably see an end to the ‘wetter-than-normal’ weather of the past weeks,” Grymes said. “In fact, we may see ‘warmer-than-normal’ and ‘drier-than-normal’ weather in the first weeks of August.”

Harvesting some corn early may help farmers extend the grain harvest and could offset some of the potential problems caused by adverse weather events like hurricanes, which can blow plants down in the fields. It also might keep them out of long lines at the elevators, the experts say.

“Producing a good crop is just part of farming,” said Lanclos. “Farmers also must harvest the crop and deliver it to the market to be paid.”

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