Just as in other areas of the Southeast, north Florida’s corn acreage was expected to increase significantly this year, and as growers entered June, the results were mixed.

In the Suwannee Valley of Florida, on both sides of the Suwannee River through north Florida and including Columbia County, farmers grew 25,000 acres of corn in 2012. This year, corn acres are expected to be up by about 30 percent over this eight-county area, with a significant amount of irrigated peanuts shifting to corn.

As May ended and June began, Columbia County Extension Agent Mace Bauer says his growers have what he would characterize as an “average” corn crop, with a shot at making good yields.

“I did my first yield estimates the other day, and it was 202-bushel corn. Overall, I’d say we have an average crop. It’s certainly not an above-average crop. We started planting on March 3, and the last planting that I’m aware of was April 20,” he says.

Very little corn acreage in the area is dryland, says Bauer.

“We like to see our irrigated corn planted by April 1. We usually schedule our limited dryland acres to be planted by April 20, because we’re trying to shoot for rainfall around June 15. We try to target our dryland corn to tassel in late June when rainfall is more consistent. This is contrary to what they do in Alabama, where the farmers try to get it in early before the heat comes on. We just don’t have any water-holding capacity that would give us the soil moisture needed for early dryland corn. We need that reliable rainfall window of late June.”

While Bauer doesn’t want to dampen the enthusiasm for high-yielding corn, he knows much of corn’s yield potential is determined early, and many of the fields went through stress from the cool spring and excessive rainfall.

“One area farmer likes to say, ‘250 bushel corn doesn’t have a bad day,’” Bauer says. “At this point, we have fields that have had bad weeks.”

He’s sure there will be a significant number of farmers who make good yields, but he’s afraid they may be overspending on their crop in an attempt to make top corn yields. In fact, some farmers have mentioned to him they don’t like growing corn because of the high dollar inputs per acre.

“The fact is that many are delivering $5.70 corn that wasn’t contracted. We can’t deny that there’s an impact from our soil types. One farmer can do the same thing on two different fields, and one will yield better. It will happen year in and year out. We can’t overcome that, or I haven’t observed it yet. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan for doing this,” he says.

Many farmers in Columbia County couldn’t get their desired hybrid this year due to short seed supply, he says.

“In a lot of cases, we don’t know much about what we’ve planted because locally, we’ve never seen some of the hybrids that are planted. They may be great, but we don’t know for sure at this point. Many growers haven’t been pleased with what they’ve seen. One of our farmers wanted one specific triple stack hybrid, plus a straight Roundup Ready hybrid. He ended up with eight different numbered seeds to plant 2,800 acres,” says Bauer.