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2003 corn endures spring challenges
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Spring storms have dampened corn growers fields, but not their hopes for the 2003 crop.
While heavy rains are not unusual during planting season, some growers had to evaluate replanting decisions to make sure whatever they do is money well spent. They know lost time reduces yield potential and profit, and every pass across the field is going to be expensive with fuel prices at their current levels.
Erick Larson, grain crops specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said most corn has an acceptable stand. However, heavy rains on April 6 and the cool temperatures following caused some flooding and uneven emergence.
"Areas with a lot of rain had soil washed from the plant's base, which exposed roots and caused some mortality," Larson said. "Some low fields and those near rivers lost stands due to flooding and will require replanting to corn or another crop, depending on the herbicide situation."
Larson said another problem in some areas is stunted growth caused by phosphorus deficiency, a typical problem when plants are 6 to 12 inches tall.
"Wet and cooler soil temperatures hinder phosphorus uptake at a time when plants begin experiencing fast growth and increased nutrient demands," Larson said. "That causes the lower leaves to turn purple. Soil testing and following fertility recommendations can prevent the problem. Time usually solves the problems when the soil dries and warms up so the roots can expand their growth."
Ernie Flint, Extension area agronomic agent based in Attala County, said quite a few growers are settling for marginal stands rather than replanting, but some are biting the bullet and replanting. Most replanting decisions have stemmed from combined low temperatures, heavy rains and flooding.
"Corn acreage is down in my area, with some growers suspending their corn/cotton rotation in favor of a year of wall-to-wall cotton. The main reasons are the hope of better prices for cotton and concern about pest problems in corn, including sugarcane beetle and Southwestern corn borer," Flint said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts Mississippi farmers will repeat last year's 550,000 acres of corn. State yields have exceeded 100 bushels per acre in six of the last seven years. A record yield of 130 bushels per acre was set in 2001.
John Coccaro, Extension area agronomic crops agent based in Sharkey County, said most South Delta corn fields are looking good. However, some fields are showing signs of "rootless corn syndrome," a life-threatening problem for the plants.
"Normally, we see this problem when farmers plant corn in fields that are too wet or they plant the seed too shallow," Coccaro said. "This year, the problem was the monster rain on April 6 of nearly 10 inches in some places. It washed the soil and removed up to an inch of soil from above the seed."
Coccaro said farmers are scouting regularly for insects, especially until the plants are about 12 inches tall.
"To this point, insect pressure has been very light in my area," Coccaro said. "Although scouting for insects such as the corn borers will continue, a significant portion of this year's crop has been planted to Bt varieties, which combat damage from borers."