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State's Corn Yields Feast and Famine
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi's corn harvest is yielding both feast and famine conditions as harvests range from 40 to 200 bushels per acre. After a drought-plagued summer, much of the yield differences can be explained by one word -- irrigation.
Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said most dryland (or non-irrigated) corn yields are between 40 and 120 bushels per acre, depending on the luck of summer showers. Yields on irrigated fields are running between 110 and 200 bushels.
"Because of 1996's drought periods, most dryland yields won't be as good as last year," Larson said. "But since we have more irrigated fields than in 1995, the state's average yield probably will be similar to last year - near 95 bushels per acre."
Mississippi has about 610,000 acres of corn, a 122 percent increase over last year's 300,000 acres. About 5 percent of the state's corn is grown for silage.
Larson said many Mississippi growers experienced corn earworm problems in their fields this year.
"Earworms typically don't cause significant economic losses unless their damage combines with poor drying conditions to promote mold growth and produce aflatoxins," Larson said.
Aflatoxin, a fungus that may grow on corn kernels, has been reported in some areas where growers harvested early and dried the corn too slowly. Grains with aflatoxin are toxic to animals, especially young animals and poultry.
Grain handling facilities routinely test corn samples before accepting deliveries. Growers with limited corn experience are encouraged to consult regularly with their county extension agents for harvesting recommendations.
Dr. Dennis Reginelli, Noxubee County agent, said earworm numbers were tremendous but were not a major issue. Aflatoxin has not been a concern.
"Noxubee growers have been more troubled with the summer droughts -- one in May and another around the end of June -- than with earworms or aflatoxin," Reginelli said.
"Some growers started harvesting around the end of July and were able to take advantage of the early market," Reginelli said.
While Noxubee fields had worms coming out of their ears, Yazoo County -- the state's other top corn county -- saw very little worm pressure.
Tim Pepper, Yazoo County agent, said the drought took its toll on most fields.
"Some growers may not harvest enough to cover their expenses," Pepper said. "Fortunately, farmers are still finding better yields than they had expected before harvesting began, and prices are good."