Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on May 30, 1997. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Saturated Soils Challenge Crops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippi farmers are witnessing too much of a good thing.
Moisture is an important ingredient in establishing a new crop, but rains in the last weeks of May have left many crops struggling to develop uniform stands.
Larry Oldham, extension soil specialist at Mississippi State University, said most fields need drier conditions and warmer weather.
"Saturated soils affect the nutrient supply and the roots' ability to take up the nutrients," Oldham said. "Roots are not able to grow well in cool, wet conditions. Extremely wet conditions also result in the loss of nitrogen, a key nutrient."
Oldham said typical agricultural soils contain about 50 percent solids, 25 percent air and 25 percent water. Whenever water increases, the amount of air decreases. In a drought, the opposite occurs.
"Plants need oxygen in the soil to grow well," he said. "Time and dry weather are the best cure for current conditions. There's not anything a farmer can add to the soil to overcome the effects of these heavy rains."
Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at MSU, said farmers need to drain standing water as soon as possible. Saturated conditions make the plants more susceptible to future diseases, insects and droughts.
"Many fields lack uniform stands. That will make the crop more difficult to manage and rarely will make a top yield for the field," McCarty said.
The cotton specialist recommended cultivating fields as soon as possible to help get oxygen into the soil. Avoid cultivating too deep or too close to the plants, which could cause root damage. Apply herbicides only if the situation is critical.
Dr. Erick Larson, extension corn specialist, said most Mississippi corn is at a size that can endure some standing water without affecting the quality.
"The crop is looking good, but there are some minor concerns for downy mildew on younger plants in saturated fields," Larson said.