Corn cropping up

Jimenez Custom Harvest company harvests corn for silage in southern Curry County. CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Fields of corn baked in the sun all summer, and late in the growing season, were pounded by rain. But local corn growers have reported good yields, despite less than desirable weather conditions.

“Most growers got very little help from Mother Nature during the growing season,” said Mark Marsalis, an agronomy specialist with New Mexico State University.

“When it did rain, it was just too late,” said Marsalis, who works at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center in Clovis.

Tim Black, who grows corn in Bailey and Parmer counties, said, “Considering the year, I can’t complain.”

Fellow farmers agree.

More than half of all corn grown this year in New Mexico was given a quality rating of above average, according to the New Mexico Field Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In New Mexico, most corn used for silage has already been harvested, according to the New Mexico Field Office. Local farmers usually harvest corn in late September or in the early weeks of October, according to Marsalis.

In Curry and Roosevelt Counties, 25,000 to 30,000 acres of corn are grown annually, according to Marsalis. Nearly 80 percent of corn grown in the counties is for silage, meaning it is used to feed livestock, Marsalis said.

As harvest season winds to a close, local farmers are reporting yields of silage corn that range from 20 to 35 tons per acre. For some farmers, yields were slightly higher than last year. For others, yields were slightly down.

Black, who grows silage and white corn for food production, said relentless August rains caused some of his corn to rot.

“The stalks just deteriorated,” he said.

He said his corn yield went down by about 10 percent this year. This year marked the first Black grew corn for silage, his response to the regional dairy boom. His silage crop faired better than his grain crop, he said.

Across eastern New Mexico, in the last decade, the production of silage corn has gradually eclipsed the production of grain corn as more dairies settled into the region, local farmers say.

“In the past, (farmers) have grown (corn) for grain to ship out. Now more guys are growing it to supply to their dairies,” Marsalis said.

Sparse rains lead most farmers in the region to rely on irrigation to grow corn, local farmers said.