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Hurricane Opal Disrupts Mississippi Harvest
STARKVILLE -- Hurricane Opal's unwelcome rains showed Mississippi's crops more mercy than Alabama's, but a delay in harvest is anything but good news for farmers struggling to put 1995 behind them.
The late-season hurricane dropped relatively small amounts of rain on the Mississippi Delta and from 2 to 3 inches on the eastern side of the state. Unfortunately, any rain at this point in the season provides only negative effects on the harvest-ready crops.
Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University, said rains delay harvest, reduce yields and hurt quality.
"Crops lose quality every day they stay in a field after reaching maturity -- even without a rain," McCarty said.
"No doubt our crops dodged a tremendous bullet by the hurricane going east of us, rather than coming up the Mississippi River," McCarty said. "That would have been the final blow for an already staggering cotton crop."
1995 has been a disappointing season as yields have been hurt by high temperatures, dry conditions and insects. Tobacco budworms devastated some cotton fields in the state.
Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at MSU, said rains were too late to help most soybeans, and field drying will be slower with cooler temperatures ahead.
"We definitely need dry weather for the next two or three weeks to let farmers go ahead and get crops out of the fields," Blaine said. "Soybean yields already are down because of the drought conditions this summer."
Blaine said farmers planning to plant wheat and ryegrass were much more appreciative of recent rains. With the exception of eastern Mississippi, much of the state still needs more rain to prepare the ground for fall plantings.
Lowndes County agent Joe Love said damage from Hurricane Opal appears to be minimal, but time will tell what the impact was of a week's harvest delay.
"Cotton may lose about 10 percent of its weight from the rains and another 4 to 12 cents per pound for lost quality," Love said. "Later maturing soybeans will benefit some from the rains, as will pastures and fall plantings."