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Rains Provide Mixed Blessing For Crops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippi fields needed rain, but the early April deluge may have provided more long-term water for the streams and lakes than for farm soils.
Six to 8 inches of rain fell across much of the state the first few days of April, with some reports near 10 inches.
"Unfortunately, when you get this much rain in such a short time, most of the water runs off into ditches and streams," said Erick Larson, agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "After the ground is soaked, water intake slows causing additional rainfall to runoff. There is not much difference in the amount absorbed into the soil when it comes from 10 inches in a short time or 1 1/2 inches from a slower rain."
The two primary crops directly impacted by the rains were winter wheat and newly planted corn. Larson said almost 70 percent of the state's corn crop had been planted when the rains arrived.
"Young corn can withstand flooded conditions for about 48 hours before the water starts bringing down the chances for survival substantially," Larson said. "Corn can endure a little longer if the water is moving and when the temperatures are cooler like they were after the front went through. is the worst time of year to get excessive rain because of the erosion potential," he said. "The emerging crop provides very little protection for the soil from heavy rainfall."
Even if the seeds maintained their hold in the soil, the potential of stand losses from the saturated conditions still exists. Cooler temperatures also will slow germination and could further reduce stands. A combination of the rains and cooler temperatures could increase seedling disease as well.
Larson said rains caused some lodging problems in wheat fields. Lodging occurs when rains and winds bend the plants over, which can reduce productivity and complicating harvest.
Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, said a small amount of early-planted beans went under water. The few soybeans that were already up appear to have made it through the heavy rains unharmed.
"We needed the rain, but in a more cooperative fashion. It came down too hard and too fast," Blaine said.
Most growers were preparing to hit the fields the first week of April, but the major storms added more than a week's delay. Soybean growers have more time to delay planting than do corn growers.
Dennis Reginneli, Noxubee County agent, said the early April storms caused the Noxubee River to overflow for the first time in two years and will cause some planting delays.
"We may test the expression, `May corn may make or may not'," Reginelli said. " It won't take corn growers long to finish planting once the fields dry out, but if the rains don't cooperate, growers may start reconsidering their planting intentions toward the end of April."