Conditions Cause Concern for High Plains Corn Producers

Corn producers in the High Plains wait out wet weather and potentially problematic conditions as global commodity market conditions worsen for U.S. producers, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said rain has been a complication for corn farmers in the region.

Significant rains have prevented producers from accessing fields, and wet conditions were slowing corn dry down in preparation for harvest. Rain has also led to high levels of fusarium, or ear rot, in corn. The state is also testing aggressively for the mycotoxin fumonisin, which can be deadly to animals, in those corn fields, she said.

“Fusarium is the mold that releases fumonisin mycotoxin, which is why there have been concerns about mycotoxins in High Plains corn,” she said.

Dr. Mark Welch, AgriLife Extension state grain marketing economist, College Station, said the quality of the corn will determine whether corn from those fields can be consumed. Corn from those fields have historically provided feed for beef cattle in the region, but there is also demand from a growing dairy industry there.

“The mycotoxin tolerances established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are lower for dairies than in beef, and they have to make sure the corn has low enough levels of mycotoxin to go to either,” he said. “It’s been so wet that there’s widespread concern, but it’s too early to say because there hasn’t been a major harvest push because farmers can’t access fields.”

Welch said grain production overall was down, as producers switched to cotton. Texas corn acreage was down 400,000 acres to 2.1 million acres compared to 2.5 million acres in 2016.

Overall, Texas corn was on pace for a good year, he said. Earlier-planted fields in South Texas performed very well.

“Moisture was adequate and there wasn’t excessive heat early,” he said. “It looks to be a good corn year for most of the state.”

Prices could still be problematic for producers, Welch said. Early problems in domestic corn — drought in the western Corn Belt and excessive rain in the eastern Corn Belt – meant low expectations, but USDA reports for October indicated those fields recovered.

International competition could add volatility to grain prices, he said. Argentina and Brazil have combined to export more corn than the U.S. over the last several years, and South American corn offers U.S. export customers an alternative source of supply given transportation costs, variable exchange rates and overall relations tied to trade agreements and international cooperation.

“The U.S. has long been the leader in the corn market,” he said. “We are the world’s No. 1 producer, user and exporter. But having Argentina and Brazil combine for such a big crop increases competition.”

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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