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Corn growers wrap up 2002 planting efforts
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The break between spring rains may have come too late for some corn growers as the optimum planting dates have passed for Mississippi fields.
Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the latest optimum corn planting date in Mississippi is April 25 in the extreme northern counties. Persistent rains in March and April delayed growers from getting the seed in the ground.
"Corn planted in March came up very slowly, but it has started growing quickly due to warm temperatures. However, some stands were flooded out in poorly drained areas," he said. "Replanting has been a hard decision and a challenge to accomplish as well."
Larson said corn growers have improved productivity tremendously in the past several years. He attributes this to new hybrids and improved management practices. Newer hybrids have improved heat stress tolerance and are producing more consistent dryland harvest yields. The use of stale seedbed tillage systems and early burndown herbicide applications have allowed many farmers to plant on time this year.
"1994 was our first year to average 100 bushels per acre. Counting that year, we've achieved 100 bushels or better six out of the last eight years," Larson said. "In addition to variety selection, the use of stale seedbed tillage systems has been a tremendous benefit. By tilling the fields in the fall, growers are able to plant fields sooner in the spring."
The mid-April break in rains allowed some growers to push their luck with later plantings.
Dennis Reginelli, Noxubee County agricultural agent, said growers have been lucky in recent years with some late plantings that netted near-record yields.
"Success always depends on getting the rains when we need them," he said. "The good news is anything planted late should grow quickly, and that will reduce the risk of early season insect problems. Slow growth opens the door for early insects like chinch bugs and cutworms."
Reginelli said some of the earlier corn grew slowly because of cooler temperatures. Consequently, some fields have fallen victim to cutworm damage.
Grower sentiment for corn has been positive in recent years because of high yields and because of frustrations with other crops. Last year, soybeans experienced problems statewide with phomopsis, a seed decay cause by pod and stem blight. On the other hand, Reginelli said Noxubee County had a record 137.5 bushels per acre of corn in 2001.
Mississippi growers are expected to plant 550,000 acres of corn this year, compared to 400,000 last year.