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Field Day Features State's "Big Three"
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The harvest season is approaching for Mississippi's "big three" row crops, and it's been a difficult year for some producers.
"There's a lot of variation in this year's soybean crop," said extension soybean specialist Alan Blaine. "Depending on who you talk to, it's either one of the best ever or one of the worst. On average, the 1997 soybean crop in Mississippi is a good one."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's estimate for the state's soybean crop is about 55 million bushels, up from more than 54 million harvested last year.
Blaine also explained that most of the problems with this year's crop have been the result of some producers shifting form cotton to soybeans.
"Many of the problems we've seen with soybeans this season have been on some of our best soils, in fields that were previously in cotton production," he said. "In many cases, the problems have been the result of low organic matter in the soil and other factors related to planting the same crop year after year. As crop rotation increases, so will yields."
Blaine said the two most important factors in soybean production are planting date and variety selection.
Mississippi growers planted 980,000 acres to cotton this year. Extension cotton specialist Will McCarty explained that 1997 is just the third time Mississippi's cotton plantings have dropped below 1 million acres since record keeping began in 1866.
"With the acreage we started with and the losses to poor weather conditions early in the season, we will be luck to harvest 930,000 acres of cotton in Mississippi this year," he said. "The current outlook is for plantings to remain about flat next season before climbing back above 1 million acres for the 1999 season."
Mississippi producers expect to harvest about 450,000 acres of corn this year, said extension corn specialist Erick Larson. There were 605,000 acres harvested in the state last year.
"Statewide average yields are expected to be about 10 to 15 percent below last year's 102 bushels an acre," he said. "Corn acreage dropped this year because of poor weather conditions and good soybean prices during the planting season.
"The cool, wet period during May and June stunted the growth of corn in the northern areas of the state and resulted in a poor root system to support plants," Larson said. "An additional problem for this year's corn crop was an outbreak of common rust, a plant disease that hit the crop just before pollination."
Blaine, McCarty and Larson made their comments at the Aug. 12 Row Crops Field Day at the Brown Loam Experiment Station near Raymond. Producers from throughout central and south Mississippi were on hand for the event.