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State Crops Endure Heat, Await Harvest
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hot, dry conditions that have burned up yards and pastures cannot do much more damage to Mississippi's row crops. Any rains arriving at this point will have little impact on the crops' development and may hurt harvest quality.
Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said corn may be the one bright spot for this year's dim harvest outlook. Recent weather conditions have helped the corn dry appropriately for harvest.
"Growers are reporting good yields -- close to last year's record 102 bushels per acre," Larson said. "Hot, dry weather is aiding producers in field drying so that mechanical drying will not be necessary and they will not get docked for moisture at the grain elevator or mill."
Other crops that were maturing relatively early have not been damaged as much as the later crops.
Barney Tanner, area extension agent in Rankin County, said early soybeans are going to produce a decent yield of 35 to 40 bushels per acre this year.
However, soybeans and cotton yields still will be down considerably.
"What the dry heat didn't get, the insects did," Tanner said. "Insects especially were hard on late soybeans. Insects have been controllable, but expensive."
In the north Delta area, the story is the same. Even irrigated fields are suffering from the heat and insects.
Later soybeans never had a chance as August temperatures averaged 5 degrees higher than normal and less than .2 of an inch of rain fell, said Charlie Estess, extension area cotton agent in Coahoma County.
"Late beans were planted in June, received a July the Fourth rain, and then it was like someone turned off the water and turned on the oven," Estess said. "Even growers with irrigated fields are expecting reduced yields."
Estess said dry weather has reduced the size of cotton bolls, and insect pressure has been severe.
"The biggest thing the insects did was cost growers a lot of money," Estess said. "Growers had spent about $70 per acre before the tobacco budworms and bollworms hit a few weeks ago. Then growers had to spend another $70 or more per acre to prevent the severe damage found in other parts of the state."
As harvesting begins, rains could damage quality and hurt prices.
"At this point in the game, a rain would be like a slap in the face," Estess said. "The only crop that might benefit is some of the later soybeans."
Tommy Baird, extension area rice agent in Sunflower County, said early harvest reports on rice indicate lower yields with some varieties withstanding the heat better than others. Grades also have been poor in some cases.
As cotton harvest nears, growers in the state's eastern counties taking part in the boll weevil eradication program can receive credits on next year's assessment if their cotton is picked and stalks are destroyed by Oct. 15.
The assessment for the 1996 eradication efforts is $16, the first half due in May. Growers can receive credit for $3.50 per acre if their stalks are destroyed by Sept. 25 or $1.50 per acre if stalks are destroyed by Oct. 15.