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Rains Cloud Hopes For Wheat Harvest
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Frequent rains are dampening Mississippi farmers' chances for a repeat of last year's profitable wheat crop.
Record yields and prices in 1996 inspired Mississippi wheat growers to increase planted acreage about 6 percent last fall. Mississippi growers averaged 49 bushels per acre on 230,000 harvested acres last year. Many 1996 farmers priced their crop near the $6 level, after wheat briefly reached the historic $7 per bushel mark.
"The general wheat outlook this year is not very good. The extremely wet conditions have hampered wheat development," said Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University.
"Mississippi's crop is not anywhere close to what it was last year at this time," Larson said. "We just aren't seeing much good wheat across the state."
Dwayne Wheeler, Tunica County agricultural agent, said rains are preventing 75 percent of the wheat fields from "greening up and taking off."
"Rains have kept farmers from fertilizing some fields. It's been wet since before planting time, too. Rains prevented some planting and caused weak stands in other fields," he said.
Wheeler said Tunica County would have more wheat fields abandoned than normal.
Art Smith, DeSoto County agricultural agent, said although farmers in his county won't abandon much wheat, if any, they are having difficulty getting fertilizer to needy fields.
"Growers haven't seen any disease problems yet, but the weather certainly has been ideal for problems developing," Smith said. "Growers should be on the lookout for septoria and rust, even if they planted resistant varieties."
Dr. Joe Fox, extension plant pathologist in Decatur, said growers have separate chemicals that will control septoria and rust. If timed appropriately, a single fungicide is available to control both, but must be applied before signs of rust develop.
Fox suggested growers contact their county extension agents for specific recommendations.
Dr. Tom Jones, extension agricultural economist at MSU, said wheat prices are around $4 per bushel, at least $1 below last year's prices. Prices in the coming months will depend on weather conditions and the harvest prospects.
Jones said weather in the last six weeks before June harvest determines much of the wheat yield.