Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on October 3, 2002. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information.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.
Isidore, Lili are bad news for state crops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Tropical Storm Isidore brought an average of almost 7 inches of rain to the state, and farmers with crops still in the field are bracing for more rain as Hurricane Lili heads toward land.
Isidore came as producers were harvesting what promised to be record yields among the state's row crops. Battered cotton plants that endured Isidore are likely to be stripped by additional rains. Only about 20 percent of the state's cotton was harvested when Isidore made landfall Sept. 26. Despite farmers' best efforts, about 75 percent of the crop was still in the fields Thursday.
"Yields have been decreased, but it's still too early to tell by how much," said Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
McCarty said Isidore's rains strung the cotton out, or left it hanging on the plant. It can still be picked, but subsequent rains will tear it off the plant and it will be lost.
"If farmers could harvest it all right now, they would have a loss, but not a total disaster," McCarty said Wednesday. "If we get heavy winds and rains in fields at this point, we will be in very serious condition."
Charlie Wax, state climatologist at MSU, said average precipitation for the state in September is 4 to 5 inches, but Isidore brought 11.5 inches of rain to the Coast, 17 inches to Poplarville, 7.5 inches to the Delta and almost 11 inches of rain to Booneville.
Heavy rains and some wind from Isidore caused problems for rice farmers who saw much of their rice lodge, or fall over. The rice can still be harvested, but some fields were not dry enough for equipment to get in before Lili's arrival. About 75 percent of the crop had been harvested before Isidore arrived, and about 15 percent remained in the fields as Lili approached.
"We had an excellent crop and were going to have another record year. The grains were heavy, and it didn't take much for it to lodge," said Joe Street, Extension rice specialist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville. "Lili's rains will delay harvest again, and if temperatures stay warm, we could get seed germinating, which will significantly reduce quality."
Soybeans were about 50 percent harvested when Isidore's rains came in late September. Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, said about 10 percent more of the crop was ready to harvest when the storm hit.
"There's no doubt it hurt everything," Blaine said. "The damage is yet to be seen. Once the crop reaches physiological maturity, any weathering will contribute to a reduction in yield and quality."
He said about 15 to 20 percent of the crop -- the acreage located in the hill section of the state -- is maturing later and actually benefitted from some rain.
"We don't need Lili," Blaine said. "It's a crying shame that we had the best yield potential for all the major row crops and now we have the threat of another storm coming in. It's adding insult to injury."
Erick Larson, corn specialist with MSU's Extension Service, said 92 percent of the state's corn and 99 percent of the state's grain sorghum were harvested before Isidore's rains came.
"The quality of the corn grain that's left in the field will not likely be reduced by wet conditions as much as other crops," Larson said. "However, the wet conditions from these two storms, combined with the wind damage expected from Hurricane Lili, may cause considerable stalk lodging of either corn or grain sorghum that has not been harvested."