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Dry Weather Hinders State Crop Plantings
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The dry weather that allowed some state farmers to finish early season planting has outworn its welcome, stopping planting and hindering growth in many fields. Soil moisture conditions are short to very short across most of the state, and gusty winds in areas of the Delta have further depleted soil moisture.
"We are dry, and a little dry weather early on doesn't hurt, but it is becoming an extended situation and we need a rain pretty badly," said Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University.
Weather forecasts predict chances for showers through the weekend, but many growers are doubtful as temperatures continue to climb.
In Bolivar County, strong winds have delayed herbicide applications in rice since mid-May.
"The dry weather has let growers get most of their crops planted, but the winds are a problem," said Don Respess, Bolivar County agent. "Rice farmers are still having trouble getting out chemicals to control weeds and grass due to windy conditions."
The recent lack of rainfall also is taking its toll on other crops.
"Corn, cotton, soybeans and pastures all need rain," said Mike Howell, Calhoun County agent. "Low soil moisture is beginning to show up. First hay cutting yields were low, and sweetpotato transplanting will be two weeks behind schedule."
Mississippi's soybean crop is about 76 percent planted, but rainfall is needed to finish planting and for growth of planted beans.
"A lot of people that are planting soybeans now are planting dry, and will need a rain for the seeds to germinate and grow," Blaine said. "A good rain would allow us to get these plants up and get the remainder planted."
Blaine explained that in some cases, seedlings that look bad may be suffering from an overabundance of thrips rather than a lack of rainfall.
"Usually growers do not have to spray for thrips, but there is a tremendous amount of thrip pressure and high numbers have been found in some fields," Blaine said. "Growers need to make sure to check fields closely and spray if necessary."
The dry weather also is taking its toll on state grass crops.
"We are dry! A lack of soil moisture is delaying the growth of perennial summer grasses," said Eddie Harris, Humphreys County agent. "More hay is being cut than usual this time of year. Zero hay reserves and dry weather patterns have led to this rush of hay."