Texas corn growers are experiencing one of the toughest years they’ve ever seen and High Plain producers expect overall production at about half a normal crop.

Severe drought, intense heat and high winds have devastated much of the state’s corn crop, says David Gibson, Texas Corn Producer’s Board executive secretary.

This has been one of the most challenging years many corn growers have had to face, Gibson said at the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation field day. Growers in South Texas made just enough to meet insurance demands, he says. “But other areas that missed early rainfall harvested little or nothing. In the panhandle, we’re seeing something most have never seen before — an entire year with no significant precipitation. We’ll make about half a normal crop in the High Plains.”

Across the state, he predicts “a mixed bag. North Central Texas got some early rains and had a good crop started but it turned dry and they did not produce what they had expected.”

He says the High Plain usually counts on from 12 inches to 14 inches of rainfall to supplement irrigation. This year they didn’t get that rain. Many areas have received no significant rainfall since last summer.

The drought, along with low humidity, intense heat and winds that often gusted to 50 miles per hour, limited production.

Gibson says corn farmers have been diverting irrigation from corn to another crop, from one pivot to another, or from part of one pivot to concentrate water on a smaller area to try to make at least some yield.

Peter Hill, an agronomist with Pioneer Hi-Bred, says “it’s been a fascinating year for an agronomist to watch hybrid corn under stress.”

It’s been less fascinating for growers, he said during a field day stop at a TAWC demonstration project. The 2011 corn crop has grown under extreme drought and heat conditions, with more than 35 days reaching 100 degrees or more.

Hill says pollination has been affected, “regardless of water availability,” and that growers can expect to see a lot of lost kernels and less grain fill from the 2011 crop. “Kernels near the tip of the ear may be aborted. We had a very short period for grain fill.”

“We will not see the kernel set we’re used to,” he says, “because of short water and high temperatures. Kernels may be smaller than we’re used to. Test weight may or may not be affected,” he says.

Gibson says farmers should document losses carefully to take advantage of crop insurance. “Work closely with insurance agents, provide adequate documentation and cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s to get the protection they paid for,” Gibson says.