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Rains help pastures, ponds, landscapes
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Heavy, mid-September rains may have been too late for row crops, but Mississippi's pastures, ponds and landscapes benefited from anything they got.
Widespread showers fell predominantly across north-central portions of the state on Sept. 12. The variable showers lasted from the predawn hours until after lunch in many areas.
Charles Wax, state climatologist and Mississippi State University professor of geosciences, said that while radar indicated 6-7 inches fell across much of North Mississippi, the state's rain gauge network did not appear to reflect that level or the higher amounts private individuals reported.
“Apparently, this rain was much like the rains we've gotten all summer -- extremely variable. It just depended on if the rain gauges were sitting under some of the downpours,” Wax said. “None of the gauges in our network caught more than 3 inches, but I've heard many reports in excess of that, including as much as 9.5 inches in Adaton (just west of Starkville).
“Typically when it rains that hard, the water just runs off. In this case, more rain probably soaked in than normal,” Wax said.
Jane Parish, assistant Extension professor of animal and dairy science, said the rains helped pond water quality, fall grazing options, some final hay cuttings and farmers' morale.
“People were really getting discouraged waiting for rain to come, and this certainly boosted spirits,” Parish said. “The quality of farm pond water was definitely improved. In some cases, producers were able to return cattle to pastures that had been lacking adequate access to water.”
Parish said the rain will not resolve the hay shortage, but it will extend fall grazing and help with some of the traditional and alternative winter forages that producers are planting.
Wayne Wells, Extension professor of plant and soil sciences, said the rains were especially helpful to residential turf and any places without irrigation.
“That type of rain will help get carbohydrates into the root system before frost, which in turn will help initiate growth next spring,” Wells said. “Warm-season grasses lose some roots in the spring anyway, making that the weakest time for the turf. The summer drought has contributed to a shallow, weak root system and will increase the challenges next spring.”
Wells said he expects disease pressure to be higher next spring when grass starts coming out. Yards also are likely to have more winter weed problems because of thinned turf from the drought.
“Normally, pre-emergence herbicide should have been out in most parts of the state, but many people held back to avoid additional stress to grass during the drought,” Wells said. “We may miss some early germination, but it's not too late for a pre-emergence, and people also might want to put out a winterizing fertilizer, particularly one with potassium to protect against stresses.”
Wells recommended applying a fertilizer, such as a 15-5-10 or similar, with slow-release nitrogen and continuing to maintain good mowing schedules, raising the mowing height slightly once the weather cools. Consider overseeding weak or bare areas with winter ryegrass to prevent erosion and other problems.
Wells said the rain gave sod producers a break in their cost of irrigation that has been so high this year.
“Nothing beats Mother Nature's rainfall. No doubt about it, rain is better than irrigation,” he said.”
Wells said the rains could encourage fall armyworms to move away from irrigated turf to other sources.
“We hope to see numbers reduced soon,” he said. “If we do get into a rainy spell, disease pressure will increase.”
Tom Barber, assistant Extension professor of plant and soil sciences, said rain during cotton harvest does not help.
“We didn't get much rain all year long, and it's just a nuisance now by slowing harvest and reducing cotton quality,” Barber said. “It impacts defoliation by causing regrowth. In some cases, the hard, pounding rains will string out cotton.”
By the end of August, rainfall deficits for the year ranged from about 13 inches below normal for Yazoo City and Hattiesburg to 4 inches below normal in Starkville. Cleveland is the lone site not posting a deficit, with just 3 inches above normal.