Nearly perfect weeks for weather have made it easy for North Carolina farmers to complete field work in the last few weeks. However, USDA reports that corn harvested still isn’t finished for the 2023 season.
At the end of October, Ronnie Heiniger, a cropping system specialist at North Carolina State University, shared that corn harvest progress in the state slowed down due to a large corn crop filling up storage bins over the past few weeks.
Storage bins at or near capacity led to farmers waiting up to 8 hours to unload corn at buying stations, Heiniger says.
While waiting to harvest their corn crop over the past few weeks, Heiniger says farmers moved on to harvesting other crops while weather conditions were favorable.
Although USDA reports just 1% more of the corn crop was harvested for the week ending Nov. 5 in North Carolina, some experts say that harvest is basically completed despite the slowdown.
Are full storage bins still stalling corn harvest progress in North Carolina?
Rhonda Garrison, executive director of the North Carolina Corn Growers Association, says USDA numbers aren’t always the most accurate when it comes to determining whether harvest is finished. “There probably are a few acres left in the field in the northern tier counties,” Garrison says, “and in some parts of the state where supply is exceeding storage capacity.”
If there was any illusion of a slowdown, she says it was due to a large crop. Statewide, Garrison says corn yields are averaging around 140 bushels per acre (bpa), which she says is above the five-year average of 135 bpa.
Georgia Love, a regional agronomist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, says corn harvest is still a bit slow as far as getting grain moved, but things are better off than they were a few weeks ago.
When it comes to storage capacity issues, Love says “a lot of those problems have alleviated themselves.” As a result, the state has moved on to harvesting soybeans.
Love notes there may be a few farmers that grow corn as well as tobacco and haven’t quite wrapped up their corn harvest.
North Carolina corn progress and history
For the week ending Nov. 5, USDA reported that 98% of the state’s corn had been harvested, which is up just 1% from the previous week. This is the third consecutive week in which corn harvest progress has increased by just 1%. This is equal to both last year at this time and the five-year average.
USDA has reported North Carolina as the first, or tied for first, to complete corn harvest from 2018 to 2021. In 2022, Texas surpassed North Carolina, completing corn harvest for the week ending Nov. 6.
In 2021, North Carolina completed their corn harvest alongside Texas for the week ending Nov. 15. North Carolina was the first state to complete corn harvest in 2020 for the week ending Nov. 16, USDA reported. Corn harvest wrapped up for the week ending Nov. 10 for both North Carolina and Tennessee in 2019. Five years ago, in 2018, North Carolina and Tennessee tied once more, completing corn harvest for the week ending Nov. 18.
Recent North Carolina weather
A weather summary compiled by the National Ag Statistics Service says temperatures were up to 5° F below normal the week ending Nov. 5, with just one location, Tarboro, reporting normal temperatures.
In the same time period, up to 0.08 inches of precipitation across the state. Most locations reported no rainfall for the week. Overall, rainfall ranged from 0.57 to 1.1 inches below average in North Carolina.
Days that were suitable for field work were 6.8, compared to last year when 6.1 days were suitable for field work at this time. Last week, 6.9 days were suitable for field work.
Maps generated by the Iowa Environmental Mesonet indicate precipitation departures as high as nearly 6 inches over the past month.
The most recent Crop Progress report rated North Carolina topsoil moisture 21% very short, 55% short, 24% adequate, and 0% surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 7% very short, 51% short, 42% adequate, and 0% surplus.
Latest North Carolina drought conditions
A drought map published Nov. 9 shows 23% of the state covered by D2 severe drought conditions.
D1 moderate drought covers 40% of North Carolina.
Just over 30% of the state is abnormally dry.
Just 6% of North Carolina is free of drought stress. This is a significant decline from three months ago, when 84% of the state reported no drought.
Of the state’s 100 counties, none have USDA disaster designations.
A look at North Carolina history
The National Integrated Drought Information System reports September 2023 was the 52nd-driest September on record for the state. Records go back to 1895.
So far, 2023 is shaping up to be the 57th-driest year in history for the Tar Heel state.