Area farmers: More dryland corn grown for grain

Argen Duncan

Roosevelt and Curry County farmers grew more dryland corn for grain this year and they expect the trend to continue.

Also, corn silage, the biggest use of locally grown corn, had varied yields this year.

Silage goes to feed dairy cattle, while grain corn may be used for ethanol production, livestock feed or human consumption.

Roosevelt County Extension Agent Patrick Kircher said the harvest of corn for grain is in progress, and farmers are growing more of it without irrigation. He attributed the increase to the development of drought-tolerant varieties, a good price for grain corn and the wet winter.

Jerry Swenson, who farms in Curry and northern Roosevelt counties, said he tried dryland corn, which is almost always grown for grain, for the first time this year.

Swenson said the wet winter and spring were the best possible start for the crop, which needs moisture in the ground to get it started.

“It didn’t yield like I expected it to,” Swenson said.

His dryland corn looked good all summer, but the rain stopped when the crop reached its point of critical water demand, he said.

Still, Swenson said he would probably try the crop again. He expects the area will see more and more dryland corn in the next few years as technology improves the plant.

Portales farmer Rick Ledbetter grew irrigated corn for silage and estimated about 90 percent of the corn grown in Roosevelt and Curry counties was that type. He said the corn silage harvest began in early September and, for him, ended earlier this month.

“It’s done, and it was all over the board,” Ledbetter said, explaining the harvest yields ranged from good to poor, depending on how much rain fields received.

Ledbetter said his crop production was average, ranging from 29 tons an acre to 23 tons an acre. He is pleased with average yields.

Water is the number one factor in determining corn yields, Ledbetter said, and timely rain and sufficient irrigation allowed a decent crop.

Swenson said he planted part of his irrigated corn for silage early in the season and part later. The early planting did well, and the rain allowed him to water less and thus save on utility costs.

“We had some yields that were as good, or maybe even a little bit better than, last year,” he said.

Last year brought crops that were average or a little better.

However, Swenson said the later planting’s yield was probably 10 percent off of the average because the rain stopped when the crop most needed water and irrigation couldn’t keep up.

Ledbetter said silage prices, which move in “lock-step” with corn for grain prices, were down a little for his recent harvest, compared to last year. However, they’re starting to rise late in the season, suggesting higher prices next year, he said.