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Heavy April rains delay ag planting
MISSISSIPPI STATE – April’s heavy rains have been devastating Mississippi’s agriculture, as they delay planting, postpone management and flood fields.
Heavy rains that accompanied the late-April storms added to already soggy soils and are pushing some planting dates dangerously late.
“In Quitman County, there are hundreds of acres of farmland under water,” said Don Respess, Coahoma County director with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “There is nowhere for the water to go. If the fields have been planted, the crops will be destroyed. If they’re not planted yet, they won’t be for a while.”
Although some corn will have to be replanted, many corn fields in the north part of the Delta have been planted. Some soybeans are planted, but very little cotton.
“Farmers are anxious to get in the field to plant cotton,” Respess said. “We got excessive rains Wednesday, and that water will delay planting longer.”
Erick Larson, state Extension grain crops agronomist, said producers in northeast Mississippi have very little corn or other crop acreage planted.
“The ongoing rains are delaying planting dates substantially. Our optimal time frame for planting corn in north Mississippi ends by about May 5,” Larson said. “If corn planting is backed up, it backs up soybeans and cotton planting, and growers may be forced to modify their cropping decisions if we continue to get rainfall.”
Complicating matters even more is the fact that many of the farms in north Mississippi are small, family-owned and operated businesses.
“These are not big commercial farms with unlimited resources,” Larson said. “Smaller operations have fewer people, and these conditions can make it difficult for them to get everything done in a short time.”
Charlie Stokes, Extension agronomic crops agent in Monroe County, said rain has put area corn growers so far behind in their planting that many will have to switch to another crop.
“Basically, we’re waiting to plant everything. April 25 was the crop insurance deadline for corn, and now growers are being penalized for every day they don’t plant,” Stokes said. “Some people will still plant because they’re under contract to grow it and will have to grow it even though it’s not insured, but others will switch to something else.”
Stokes said producers are not late yet in planting other crops such as soybeans, cotton and peanuts, but they will have to plant them all at the same time.
“They like to spread everything out to make management easier,” Stokes said.
Darrin Dodds, state Extension cotton specialist, said very few acres of cotton have been planted. Either the ground has been too wet to work or producers are trying to finish corn before moving on to plant cotton.
“We are behind where we were last year,” Dodds said. “We have until about May 15 to plant before the delays will be significant, so additional rain the next two weeks could have an impact.”
Jerry Singleton, area Extension agricultural agent in Leflore County, said soggy ground is the biggest problem growers in his area are facing from the recent storms.
“For the most part, really low-lying fields have not been planted, and there is some water backed up in fields with low spots,” Singleton said.
Producers have barely started planting cotton, and the majority of soybeans have yet to be planted. A few days without rain will allow growers to plant in earnest.
Dennis Reginelli, Extension agronomic crops agent in Noxubee County, said growers need a solid week of good weather to catch up on field activity.
“Most of the corn in Noxubee County is looking good, but growers need to be in the field applying herbicides and nitrogen,” Reginelli said.