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Harvest weather makes waves for state's crops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Tropical Storm Fay was in the first wave of challenges facing Mississippi farmers during the 2008 harvest season as growers wait to see what future storms may bring.
Mississippi State University agronomists are reporting some benefits but mostly problems from recent wet, humid conditions. They all agree the timing of the storm called Gustav could hurt much more.
Trey Koger, soybean specialist with MSU's Extension Service, said later-planted soybeans, such as the fields planted after wheat, have benefitted from the additional moisture. Growers planted about half the crop later than normal.
“We saw some seed rot before Fay and even more since those rains, most significantly in the earliest beans. That only has impacted a small percentage of the overall crop, but in those isolated areas, the damage has been severe,” he said. “If we get a lot of wet weather from this next system (Gustav), much of the crop will be more susceptible to damage. Gustav is the one we really don't need.”
Koger said soybean rust has been minimal in the state as of the end of August, with low levels detected in two isolated locations -- one in southeast Mississippi and one in southwest Mississippi. As conditions become more favorable for the disease, he is urging growers to wait for official recommendations before treating any fields.
“The more mature the crop is, the less damage that can occur from soybean rust. About 70 percent of our crop is past the vulnerable stages. The latest planted beans will be at a greater risk,” he said. “We are trusting our sentinel plots and trained scouts to alert us when it is time to treat fields that are at risk.”
Seed crops like soybeans and corn need dry conditions for harvest. The longer they stay in the fields, the greater the risks.
Dennis Reginelli, Extension area agronomics crop agent based in Noxubee County, said Fay's rains arrived at a bad time for soybeans, which have lost quality because of disease. Corn could face harvest complications the longer it remains in saturated fields.
“Corn growers who harvested earlier and invested in out-of-field drying will spend a little more on the front end, but they will have a better quality crop in the long run,” he said. “Grain bins and heat dryers have made a difference this year.”
While Fay did not have a major impact on the state's rice crop, growers are bracing for Gustav and other storms that may follow.
Nathan Buerhing, Extension rice specialist, said the crop is about two weeks behind normal. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce listed rice as 25 percent mature on Aug. 24, compared to 73 percent at this time last year.
“One possible saving grace for rice is that most of it was planted over several weeks,
and later plantings will be able to withstand storms better,” Buehring said.
Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds said Mississippi's cotton was looking better than average before Fay, with some exceptions in dry areas. In most cases, rains at this stage of development are more harmful than beneficial.
“We are seeing some problems with bollrot, and in some cases we could see up to 10 percent yield losses.” Dodds said.