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Corn, Soybean Harvest Is Under Way for Southern Farmers
DES MOINES, Iowa -- While Midwest farmers are still wondering what is out in their fields, U.S. southern farmers are finding out. Corn and soybean harvest is underway in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. What are the yields like? That’s what everyone wants to know.
As of this week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that Texas farmers have harvested 45% of their corn crop vs. 52% a year ago and a 50% five-year average.
Mississippi farmers have 24% of their corn crop picked vs. 36% a year ago and a 37% five-year average. Also, Arkansas farmers have harvested 9% of their 2019 corn vs. 13% a year ago and an 18% five-year average.
Most farmers tell Agriculture.com the corn is average and the soybeans are coming out of the field below average.
Mississippi Corn, Soybean Harvests
JD Cresswell, Mississippi Ag John Deere dealership account manager serving farmers in Mississippi and Arkansas, says the big story this year is that overall planted acres are down drastically due to spring flooding. Mississippi farmers have grown 694,000 acres of corn and averaged 131 bushels per acre (91 million bushels) over the last five years, according to the Mississippi Farm Bureau statistics.
“The floodwaters started in late December/early January, and we had ground under water from late December until August. We are just now seeing the floodwaters recede,” Cresswell says.
So, that paints the picture for this growing season in the Delta.
In west-central Mississippi, farmers have been harvesting corn for two weeks.
“The farmer-customers I talked to say the corn yields are not a record but are average. On the better soils, the nonirrigated corn is averaging 200 bushels per acre,” Cresswell says. “It’s rained the majority of the year, so the fields that are corn-after-cotton are doing better than fields in other areas of the state.”
The corn that is next to the floodwaters is yielding significantly lower. The moisture stayed on the roots full time, cutting yield.
The Delta corn yields will end up at or below the statewide average of 131 bushels per acre, Cresswell says.
With a lot of poultry feeders, Mississippi is a corn-deficit state. Farmer-customers say they will sell most of their corn to those locations.
For soybeans, farmers are starting to cut that crop, says Cresswell. Those beans will be taken to a Bunge terminal on the Yazoo River, a 190-mile-long river that runs parallel to the Mississippi River. Eventually, those loads of soybeans will be barged down the Mississippi River. As of late August, river levels are passable for grain transportation, compared with the shutdown that occured earlier this spring due to the flood levels.
“The early-planted soybeans are not looking that great,” Cresswell says. “We just had too much rain. It was hard for farmers to get out in the fields and spray them when they needed to. I’m looking at beans right now that don’t look so great. I have customers who are cutting today (Wednesday).”
This week, Delta farmers are watching the path of Hurricane Dorian.
If Dorian jumps across Florida and heads to the Gulf, Mississippi’s harvest activity could come to a halt.
Heath Killebrew, a Tchula, Mississippi, farmer, is in the first quarter of harvesting corn.
“I’d say the yields are average. You get some (corn yields) that are terrible, some that are decent, but none of the fields is extremely good. The irrigated corn, which is salvageable and we took to harvest, is yielding around 180 bushels per acre,” the Delta farmer says.
Because of historic spring flooding, it’s estimated that 15% of the Delta acres didn’t get anything planted on them, Killebrew says.
“Our plan was to plant half of our acres to corn this year, but we were only able to plant one third of our farm to corn,” the Mississippi farmer says. ‘We had 3,000 acres that we couldn’t plant. We planted a cotton crop behind the failed corn crop.”
Needless to say, this year’s corn season has been tough in the Delta.
Killebrew plans to store his corn on the farm until January. At that time, the central Mississippi-based farmer will sell his crop to poultry feeders.
There is a lot of land that went to soybeans, due to the flooding that occurred this year on the Yazoo River.
Texas Corn Harvest
Corey Bowen, Wharton County, Texas A& M grilife Extension agent, says labeling this corn season as a challenging year is an understatement.
“We’ve been struggling with wet conditions all the way back to Labor Day of 2018. The rain started that weekend, and it didn’t stop until February. So what the country experienced with flooding and wet fields, we have had it, too,” Bowen says.
Farmers in the Upper Gulf Coast of Texas normally plant corn in February. This year, planting didn’t happen until mid-March, Bowen says.
As a result, Wharton County’s average of 69,000 corn acres dropped sharply, with 17,000 acres (20%) of the acres not getting seeded.
“So, all of that March planted corn is out, and the late-planted (April) corn will be out soon,” Bowen says.
What’s interesting is that much like the Midwest this year, the Wharton County corn that grew in high spots in fields with good drainage thrived. But poor drainage areas saw plants suffering, Bowen says.
The Wharton County corn yields averaged between 100 and 150 bushels per acre, Bowen says.
“It all ties back to drainage,” Bowen says. “On June 5, our county had 14 inches of rain, and that was just in the morning.”
Jim Sugarek, Beeville, Texas, farmer, says he planted 1,600 acres of corn in extremely wet conditions this year, but that subsoil moisture helped produce a good dryland crop.
“We wrapped up corn harvest at the end of July and are finishing cotton picking this week,” Sugarek says.
The southern Texas farmer grew his corn crop on less than 11 inches of rainfall and is pleased with his yields.
“For us, it goes back to subsoil moisture. We averaged 100-bushel-per-acre dryland corn. For this dry area of Texas, that’s a dang good crop,” Sugarek says.
Because all of Sugarek’s corn is sold into the Mexican market, the current trade agreement talk is top of mind.
“That market is vitally important. The whole trade picture is a problem. Our cotton doesn’t have a market, and we have a milo crop sitting in bins with nowhere to go. As a southern Texas producer, it makes me real nervous about what is going to happen or not happen with the USMCA trade agreement,” Sugarek says. “We need that agreement in place soon. My closest ethanol plant is 700 miles away. If something stumbles with the USMCA agreement, we’re in trouble big-time.”
Much like other Southern corn growers, the new crop is being binned as many wait for a rally in the market.
Louisiana Corn Harvest
Hank Jones, RHJ Ag Services crop consultant, Winnsboro, Louisiana, says most of the area corn was planted this year in April and some (for the first time) in May.
“We got off to a rocky start, with a lot of prevented-plant acres this year,” Jones says. “We have 75% of our corn harvested here in northeast Louisiana. By the end of the week, we should be 90% complete,” Jones says.
The corn yields are averaging between 180 and 200 bushels per acre, about 10% to 15% below the average in that part of Louisiana, Jones says.
With most of the corn sold to area poultry feeders or local elevators, most farmers have it stored for a better price day, the Louisiana crop consultant says.
“Not much of this corn will be held over to next year’s market. It will be moved in December,” Jones says. “When corn prices went up a few months ago, a lot of people didn’t take advantage of that rally. They (farmers) watched the market go up, and now they have watched it go back down.”
To cover expenses, some farmers will be forced to sell some corn, but most will try to hold out as long as they can to see what the corn prices do, Jones says.