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Growers Look For Record Corn Yields
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi corn stayed one step ahead of the drought and rewarded farmers with what promises to be the state's highest per acre yield.
Farmers are expecting yields averaging 115 bushels an acre, topping the previous record of 107 bushels. As of the second week of September, corn was ahead of schedule with 85 percent harvested.
Dr. Erick Larson, corn specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said early planting was key to the success of this year's crop.
"Most of the droughty conditions did not begin until the last week of July, and by that time most of the corn crop had nearly reached maturity," Larson said. "Corn is relatively tolerant of drought stress as it nears maturity, compared to early grain development."
Not only did the drought come too late to harm most corn, it actually sped up the drying process of the mature corn, permitting rapid harvest. Farmers faced little significant disease problems this year, and even insect pressures were less than last year.
Corn acreage in Mississippi fell from 550,000 acres in 1998, a bad year for corn, to 350,000 acres this year.
"Farmers gambled wrong," Larson said of the decreased acreage.
Prices, however, are significantly lower than last year, meaning high yields will help farmers survive rather than provide large profits. Recent prices have been $1.93 per bushel, down from $2.28 in June 1998 and considerably lower than the $4 per bushel farmers got as recently as 1996.
Breakeven points depend on yield levels and cost of inputs, but average about $2 to $2.25 per bushel, Larson said.
Paul Good, owner of Good's Longview Farm near Macon, had about 382 acres of dryland corn. His harvest was complete by the first week of September.
"It was a very good year for dryland corn," Good said. "It was one of our best for weather and everything."
He anticipates yields of about 160 bushels an acre.
"I told others in my county we better write this down," Good said.
Good planted by mid-April on fields that were a little wetter than he wanted, but he had only one time when fields were short of water during the growing season. Farmers in his area prepare fields in the fall and plant on beds to avoid spring rains and the soil's poor internal drainage.
"We will make a profit this year," Good said. "With this kind of yield, I think the majority of corn farmers will be able to make a profit, even though the price of the commodity is lower."