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Rains boost state's slow-growing crops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Recent rains provided most of Mississippi's struggling crops with the boost needed to grow out of seedling stages and on toward maturity.
With the exception of the extreme northern counties, the Memorial Day holiday week brought much-needed rains to Mississippi. While all crops lacked water, corn may have been the most needy.
Erick Larson, corn specialist for Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said much of the state had not received rain since mid-April. Corn plants were in various stages of water stress.
"Soil reserves were depleted, and corn water needs were high and increasing daily as corn growth rapidly progressed," Larson said. "The rains should give corn a chance to rebound in advance of pollination, which is the most critical stage for water."
Larson said rains fell slowly over several days, allowing the water to soak into the soil rather than running off fields into ditches.
Tom Barber, Extension cotton specialist, described the precipitation as a "million-dollar rain."
Much of the state's cotton was not thriving, and the conditions were conducive to insect and seedling disease pressure. Thrips and spider mites have endangered plants, but Barber said he hopes rains will help plants grow quickly and be less susceptible to harm.
"This has been a very unusual season with the cool temperatures and the early dry spell. One thing we don't want to see is the crop be delayed to the point that it will be at risk of hurricane damage late in the summer," Barber said. "The dryer start could be good because it helps the roots go deep. That may give the crop more stamina in future dry spells."
Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, said the threat of a drought is never far away in Mississippi.
"This time of year, growers are only two weeks away from a drought," Blaine said. "Soybeans have been growing off very slowly this year because of the cool temperatures and lack of moisture. After these rains, we should see some tremendous changes."
Blaine said soybeans were not at a stage where they would be using much water, but some fields needed the rain to help get plants growing. A small percentage of soybean farmers needed rain before they could finish planting.