Grain Harvest Season Progressing; Yields Down

Linda Benedict, Stewart, Sandy, Lanclos, David Y.  |  4/19/2005 10:29:02 PM

News Release Distributed 06/22/04

The grain harvest is progressing well, but yields are down because of too much rain at the wrong time in the growing season, experts say.

"This year was, and still is, a challenging year for farmers," said LSU AgCenter Dr. David Lanclos.

The heavy rains in mid-June flooded fields and caused many farmers to replant their crops. Persistent rains also reduced field work, slowed crop growth and increased the competition of weeds, disease and insects. During the same time, long periods of overcast skies reduced the sunlight needed for photosynthesis in the plants and caused additional crop stress, Lanclos explained.

"At this point, 60 percent of the state’s corn acreage is harvested," Lanclos said last week (Aug. 20), adding that the corn harvest is in full swing. "Yield reports are averaging from 90 bushels to 140 bushels per acre – as compared to 120 to 160 bushels in previous years."

Lanclos said the 10 percent drop in the average corn yield is the result of heavy early season rains.

"The persistent rains early in the season saturated the soil and caused corn plants to develop shallow root systems and weak stalks," he said.

In such situations, additional heavy rains or high winds add stress to the weak plants and can cause stalks to fall to the ground and be difficult to harvest.

Louisiana farmers have nearly a half-million acres of corn this year, and Lanclos said the good news is the recent sunny days have been good to dry the corn crop for harvest.

As for other crops, the harvest of early maturing soybeans and grain sorghum has begun in the state.

"We estimate about 1 million acres of soybeans are planted in the state," said Lanclos. "And early harvest yields are ranging between 25 and 40 bushels per acre."

Last year’s average soybean yield, according to LSU AgCenter figures, was 37.4 bushels per acre on the nearly 734,000 acres harvested in the state.

The harvest of grain sorghum also is well under way, and experts say those yields also are down 10 to 15 percent from last year.

Although the cotton growing season isn’t quite over yet, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist Dr. Sandy Stewart said the cotton yield losses are expected to be more severe than other crops this year.

"The persistent rains and overcast skies early in the season caused cotton plants to develop shallow root systems and stunt out early," said Stewart, adding, however, "The recent timely rains are causing the plants to begin to grow."

Harvest is expected to begin in late August on the state’s half-million-acre cotton crop.

"This year has been unusual as Louisiana farmers continued to adjust for weather events, alter practices and cut their losses in a year that has challenged their ability to produce food and fiber for the consuming public," Lanclos said.

More information about the agricultural situation in the state can be obtained by visiting the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com, by attending the Dean Lee Research-Extension Crop Field Day on Aug 26 at the Dean Lee Research Station near Alexandria or by contacting Lanclos or Stewart at (318) 473-6520.

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Contacts David Lanclos at (318) 473-6530 or dlanclos@agcenter.lsu.edu 
Sandy Stewart (318) 473-6522 or sstewart@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: John Chaney at (318) 473-6605 or jchaney@agcenter.lsu.edu

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