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Wet harvest weather makes trouble for state's corn crop
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Corn farmers are finally completing harvest of what is possibly the state's second-highest average yield, but abundant rainfall caused delays, made harvest more difficult and hurt some grain quality.
Erick Larson, grain crops specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said repeated rains, relatively low temperatures and high humidity prevented corn from drying in the field as quickly as it should have.
“When grain is subjected to wet conditions and it doesn't dry normally, its quality can deteriorate, and it will actually lose seed weight,” Larson said. “High-moisture grain also presents difficulties to producers and grain handlers as they try to prevent it from deteriorating while it is in storage and transport.”
Although June and July were dry, significant rains came in August and carried into September. The crop had more lodging than normal because of problems associated with a late harvest and localized storms early in the season.
“Despite enduring rainfall that was two to four times above normal, two hurricanes and one tropical storm, the corn crop held up remarkably well,” Larson said. “We did not experience a lot of high winds, which could have caused catastrophic damage by lodging, or blowing down, the unharvested corn crop.”
Corn reaches maturity at about 30 percent moisture and then typically dries to 15 percent moisture over a 25-day period.
“This year, grain moisture content stayed from 17 percent to 20 percent from late August to early September,” Larson said. “These conditions promoted deterioration and the growth of ear molds that reduce the grain's quality.”
Larson estimated yields will average about 10 percent lower than last year's statewide record average of 150 bushels per acre.
“Dry-land yields statewide are a little better than what they were last year and should average more than 100 bushels per acre,” Larson said. “Irrigated acres will probably average about 190 bushels an acre or slightly less. Last year, irrigated corn averaged more than the 200-bushel-per-acre benchmark.”
Jerry Singleton, area agronomist based in Leflore County, said this year's good irrigated corn yields won't compare to last year's when Leflore County broke its old record by 25 to 30 bushels an acre.
“We just finished harvesting three irrigated variety trial fields where we had 14 varieties growing at each location,” Singleton said. “We averaged more than 200 bushels an acre on these fields.”
Singleton said August rains compromised grain quality and led to some corn rot problems.
Charlie Stokes, area agronomist based in Monroe County, said dry-land corn growers in the northeastern part of the state have been pleasantly surprised by the crop they have.
“We had a lot of corn planted later than we liked, but it ended up working out pretty well because the rains we got late in July were key to helping our yield,” Stokes said. “It was one of the few times that a later-planted crop worked out.”
Only a few corn fields in this part of the state had been harvested by the end of September, but yields have been between 90 and 150 bushels an acre.
“The bulk of our crop is being harvested in this range, and we're real pleased with that. It's a little above our historical average,” Stokes said. “We've got some dry spots that were under that yield figure and some areas that cut from 170 to 180 bushels an acre.”
While yields were good, prices are down from their early highs and input costs have continued to rise.
“With the high fertilizer and input costs, I think a lot of growers will be scratching their heads when they talk about corn next year,” Stokes said. “With as much fertilizer as corn needs, they'll have to pencil out a profit on paper. If it doesn't work out on paper, it will be hard to work it out in the field.”