2011 was generally considered to be one of the worst corn years in recent memory in the Carolinas, but Mark Hardy, owner of Hardy Farms in Guilford County, was able to win yield awards with his 250 acres. 2012 has been thought of as one of the best corn growing years out of the last 10, but Hardy's crop was a near failure:
“This past year was one of the worst. On top of the drought, which was probably one of the worst in 75 years, our corn crop started off well and at the end of June the rain quit and the heat started. We had corn that scalded because of the heat.”
While disappointed, Hardy's irrigated yield wasn't anything to be ashamed of:
“My irrigated yields last year were 282 bushels per acre. This year it was about 206, which is good, but wasn’t what I was hoping for. I think it was attributed to the heat, we had about 10 days with 95-100 degree temperatures. The agronomists told me that the fields were not able to cool themselves over night because it stayed 85 degrees overnight. It just accumulated and it was a disaster in my area.”
Hardy explains that he plants his crop in stages, with about four different varieties in an attempt to outsmart the weather, but this year, some of his fields were a dead loss:
“Some of the earlier planted corn did make ears and some of the later planted corn did not. It’s the first time I have ever run a combine over a field where the stalks were 12 feet tall and not one ear on it.”
When the weather turned early this spring, agronomist were cautioning growers about planting early, but the early planted fields are where Hardy's best yields were:
“The early maturing varieties and the early planted fields did best.”
Hardy says that he's altered his row spacing and plant populations in recent years, and feels the new system is working well:
“I have been doing narrow rows for 22 years, I am at 20”, where I started at 15”. I am taking 2 rows per row divider on the corn head. That works well if the corn doesn’t go down or you have storm damage. I decided about 4 years ago to go to 20”. I plant pretty high populations, about 33000 plants per acre. And about 40000 plants per acre on the irrigated fields.”
But, like any true farmer, Hardy had this final thought:
“I’m looking forward to next year, maybe it will be better.”
Mark Hardy, Guilford County, North Carolina.
For more on our harvest series from the Carolinas click here.