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Warm temperatures starting in February allowed Mississippi's corn crop to get an early start, and 90 percent of planned acreage was in the ground by mid-April. (Photo by Scott Corey)

Warm spring gave corn an early start

MSU Extension Service

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A warm spring made early corn planting possible, and despite frequent rains, the statewide crop was about 90 percent planted by mid-April.

Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said corn planting should be completed soon if rains don’t halt progress.

“We had a few acres of corn planted in late February, but the bulk of the crop was planted between rains in March,” Larson said. “The south and central Delta made good progress and have completed most of their corn planting, but the extreme northern part of the state has a substantial amount of planting yet to complete.”

The last most corn was planted and up by the first week of April was 2007.

“Unfortunately, an extremely hard freeze on Easter weekend, followed by a couple weeks of cold temperatures, damaged a lot of corn and wheat in northern Mississippi counties that year,” Larson said. “We hope the weather will be more cooperative this season.”

Extremely warm weather has prompted much faster corn development than normal.

Jerry Singleton, Extension agronomic crops agent in Leflore County, said plenty of sunshine and warm weather allowed 99 percent of the corn in this southern Delta county to be planted and up by early April.

“The corn developed a dark green color right out of the ground,” Singleton said. “The cool weather we’re having in mid-April may yellow it up a bit but will not set it back.”

Larson said corn’s extended planting window this year is causing some management challenges.

“Some growers farming large acreage are still planting corn and have others fields that already need to be side-dressed or have herbicides applied,” Larson said. “Nitrogen and herbicide applications are normally not difficult to schedule because corn is usually planted in a shorter time period.”

USDA predicted 900,000 acres of corn would be planted in Mississippi, up 11 percent from the 2011 crop. However, Larson said planted acreage probably will not be that high.

“Our intentions are being scaled back somewhat during the planting season, primarily because of the increase in fertilizer prices,” he said. “Corn requires a lot of nitrogen fertilizer, and there’s a lot of seed being returned to dealers because of nitrogen’s high cost.”

Corn acreage in northeast Mississippi has had a slower planting season because frequent rains have kept fields too wet for equipment.

“We experienced the same warm temperatures that the rest of the state did in March, but it’s been extremely wet. That’s been the delay,” said Jay Phelps, Extension area agronomy agent who works in six counties from his base in Pontotoc County.

Only about 20 percent of the corn crop in his area has been planted, but fields were dry enough to start planting again by mid-April.

“If it stays dry, it won’t take but about a week to get it in,” Phelps said. “We planted well into May last year.”

Released: April 13, 2012
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