Farmers’ corn harvest hopes high despite lower yield forecasts

Corn stalks stand tall against the sunrise, ready for harvest on Sept. 29, 2015. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

The 2015 corn harvest has begun in Kansas.

According to the monthly National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast released on Sept. 11, corn production in Kansas is expected to yield 148 bushels per acre in the 2015 harvesting season.

Last year, Kansas farmers yielded an average of 149 bushels per acre.

In some areas of Kansas, corn production is expected to have lower yields. This is due either to corn production being delayed, planted late or a loss of nitrogen.

For most of Kansas, however, corn production is still looking good. Farmers are expecting to see another record-setting year in terms of yields and production.

“Around mid-July when corn was reaching flowering, mild temperatures and good moisture conditions in Kansas allowed the corn crop to catch up … from the early wet spring conditions,” Ignacio Ciampitti, professor of agronomy, said. “Lack of crop uniformity, poor weed control and nitrogen lost via leaching were the main production issues experienced by corn farmers this growing season.”

According to the Sept. 21 weekly USDA Kansas Crop Progress Report, a total of 27 percent of Kansas corn had been harvested. This includes 71 percent in the Southeast Region, 48 percent in Central, only 11 percent in the Northwest and 13 percent in the Northeast.

According to Ciampitti, corn is ready to harvest when grains reach maturity, which is indicated when a black layer forms at the bottom section of the grain. This black layer means that the grains have reached their maximum weight. From that point until harvest, the kernel is only loosing moisture, but potential maximum yield is already achieved.

“We are seeing better yields this year versus last year on our farm,” Travis Poovey, Wabaunsee County farmer, said. “We have currently harvested about 300 acres with about 500 acres still left. The yield varies on the field and type, but right now we are seeing any where from 110 to 160 bushels per acre.”

On a national scale, corn production in the U.S. is down 4 percent as a whole when compared to the record production 2014 harvest numbers. The average yields for the 2015 season are expected to be 167.5 bushels per acre, a decrease of 3.5 bushels from last year.

Some farmers, however, are experiencing harvests that are still producing high corn yields.

“We have harvested about 580 acres and only have about 60 left,” Brandon Kerwin, senior in animal sciences and industry, said. “When it comes to yields, we have been surprised. We farm a lot of hill ground and with the moisture we have had, it has been really good to us this year. Corn in our area has been averaging about 130 to 140 bushels an acre. We did have some valley ground, though, that was short of its normal yields and that was mainly caused by flooding, but in all our corn crop has exceeded our expectations.”

Even with yields estimated to be lower when compared to 2014, this will be the second highest yield to date for the U.S. and third largest production on record.