Corn Farmers in Texas Panhandle Welcome Recent Cool Weather

September 15, 2016 10:12 AM

Recent cooler temperatures and gray skies in Amarillo, Texas are predicted to remain through the rest of the week, and most likely into the weekend, with a light breeze and at least a 40 to 60 percent chance of rain each day.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports that weather forecast may not be the most desirable for many people in the city, but it's just fine for the region's corn farmers, who are facing the fall harvest.

The increased chance of rain, combined with the disappearance of summer's heat, is just what many corn growers have been hoping for.

"The hot and dry weather we had earlier in June, July and part of August kind of hurt our crop," Dumas corn farmer Darren Stallwitz said. "That stressed them pretty good. But the cool weather and the little bit of rain we've had has helped tremendously."

The rain in August helped out farmers as well.

At the National Weather Service, meteorologist Mike Gittinger said this year's September rains have been a "stark contrast" to last year.

Gittinger said that through Sept. 12, the Amarillo area received 15.56 inches of moisture for the year, and the normal amount for that period is 16.15 inches.

"Last year, we had 28.81 inches, but that was a (fourth highest all-time) record. There weren't any major records broken (in August)," Gittinger said.

"We ended up with 4.1 inches of rainfall for the month, which was above normal (2.91 inches)," Gittinger said. "We had those early cool fronts, and so we kind of cooled back down after warming over the summer. Our average temperatures were pretty much running right about what they should have been; our average high was 88.2, and the normal is 89 or so."

Back in the corn field, Stallwitz said, "The weather right now is in pretty good shape to produce corn."

On his 6,500-acre farm, he planted about 1,000 acres of corn. While the rain is good for growing, the crop needs to dry out before it can be harvested.

"We would like some dry weather for harvest," Stallwitz said. "We want the crop to mature so it does take heat and a little bit of wind, but once it matures we kind of want it to be dry so we can get in and out of the field and not tear things up."

He hopes to get 200 to 250 bushels per acre.

Ron French, a plant pathologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, sees the current weather with a bit of a different view. He thinks the weather right now could potentially harm corn.

"We had high temperatures in July and August, which can stress the plant, and when a plant is stressed it's more susceptible, it's weaker, against the attack of insects and diseases caused by fungi and bacteria," French said. "Some of the major concerns in corn are aflatoxins and fumonisins .(but) because we irrigate our corn, we don't tend to see those drought issues.

French said that fumonisins are toxins, and they could cause problems if the harvest is going to go for animal consumption.

"Currently, temperatures are cooling down," he said. "We're at the end of the growing season. If we do get rain in the next few days, that's going to increase the moisture level. The potential exists for ear rots in corn. At the end of the season, our concerns are usually with ear rots in corn, head molds in milo or sorghum and also with stalk rots on corn and sorghum. Fumonisins tend to occur when you have rainy weather during or after flowering. It can be increased if there's insect damage, or if there's a lot of fungal growth on the tip of the ear, then it spreads throughout the plant. Right now, because it's wet, we might be seeing more fumonisin issues."

Corn silage, or feed for cud-chewing animals, is what happens to most of the corn that is harvested in the Texas Panhandle.

"If the ears have fusarium ear rot, (that) could potentially produce the toxin. It's common to see fusarium in the ear, but if we have elevated levels of ear rot, then you have more fungal activity and you increase the potential for there to be high levels of the fumonisin, levels which are not acceptable for animal consumption."

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