CW 09-12-17 Review of 2009 West Central Nebraska Crop Season, Particularly Corn & Whea

CW 09-12-17 Review of 2009 West Central Nebraska Crop Season, Particularly Corn & Whea

December 18, 2009

In the following article Bob Klein, extension crops specialist at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte, reviews the 2009 crop production season in west central Nebraska.

n a Nutshell

  • Above Average Moisture
  • Below Average Temperatures
  • High Yields
  • A Late, Complicated Harvest

The more inputs that producers can control, including variety selection, insect control, fertilizer application, and maturity, the more benefit they’ll reap from improved grain quality and higher crop yields. However, they still can’t control one key factor — weather and climate conditions — and these had a major role in the 2009 growing season in Nebraska.

Record-Setting Temps and Precipitation

At the UNL West Central Research and Extension Center near North Platte we had much cooler than normal temperatures and higher than average rainfall. High temperatures from April through October at North Platte averaged 70.1º, more than 5 degrees below the 100-year average of 75.7º. This was the lowest average daily high temperature in over 100 years of weather records at North Platte. Minimum daily temperatures for this same time period averaged 46.9º, well below the 100-year average of 48.7º. Rainfall total from April through October was 21.56 inches, significantly more than the 16.74-inch long-term average.

Effects on the Growing Season

What effect do lower temperatures and higher than normal rainfall amounts have on the growing season? Corn planting was delayed in late April and early May due to rain, which led to wet field conditions and cooler than normal soil temperatures. These conditions, in turn, led to delayed emergence of the young seedlings. Corn that can be planted on average between April 20 and May 10 will reach its maximum yield potential, assuming that soil conditions are favorable and that good hybrids have been selected, but planting date is only one criterion among many in achieving maximum yield potential. The difference in yield response to planting dates may relate directly to weather.

Corn Production in 2009

Corn growing season did have many ups and downs this year. There were numerous hail storms in southwest Nebraska. Although some hail near North Platte hit corn smaller than 6 leaf, yields were not affected at the end of the growing season. At the UNL High Plains Water Lab near Brule, as in many areas of southwest Nebraska, multiple hail storms reduced corn yields and delayed corn harvest.

The corn harvest at the Water Lab was delayed due to late planting dates of the corn trials and hail storms that delayed maturity. This led to high moisture corn at harvest, as high as 26% in mid-December, and light test weights, as low 48 pounds per bushel.

To view yields and other data from this year's UNL variety field trials, visit the Variety Testing section of CropWatch.

Rainfed ecofallow corn at the UNL research farm south of North Platte averaged over 100 bushels per acre this growing season with corn moisture at 16.5% in mid-November. Rainfall totals were above normal this summer allowing for maximum production in this area. Rainfed skip-row corn averaged 131 bushels per acre near North Platte. The rainfed ecofallow hybrid test plot in Harlan County averaged 205 bushels per acre.

Irrigated corn yields were above the long-term average, but faced quality issues at harvest, including high moisture levels, lower than average test weights, and numerous molds and fungus on the plants and kernels. The irrigated corn hybrid test plot at the West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte averaged 262 bushel per acre. Another effect of the climate was that corn kernels were difficult to remove from the high moisture cobs during harvest.

Corn moisture at harvest varied widely depending on the hybrid maturity date selected for planting. This further reinforces the importance of hybrid selection in obtaining maximum yields. Consult your seed corn dealers for how to achieve maximum yield potential. Accumulated growing degree days (GDD) for North Platte for April through October 31 were at 2466.5, 236 GDD below the long-term average of 2702.5. Complicating this maturity issue further was the fact that both the corn and soybean harvest in southwest Nebraska had to be delayed due to three October snow storms that delivered over 30 inches of snow for the month. The first killing freeze for the area near North Platte occurred October 2.

Wheat Harvest

This season proved the value of wheat seed treatments in preventing many diseases that may occur due to wet conditions. Although rainfall was plentiful throughout the summer growing season, a much wetter and cooler than normal July delayed wheat harvest in the area. For those able to escape the numerous hail storms, wheat yields were much above average.

Finishing 2009 and Looking to 2010

Without an additional major snowfall in the next month, corn harvest should be completed in west central Nebraska in early 2010, which will be the latest harvest in many growers’ recent memory. Producers can then turn their attention to the 2010 growing season with appropriate variety selections, soil testing, and treatment for optimimum control of weeds and insect management.

Bob Klein
Extension Western Nebraska Crops Specialist

Gary Mahnken
Research Technologist
Both at UNL's West Central REC, North Platte

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