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State Wheat Drops, As U.S. Yields Soar
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Nationally, wheat growers are harvesting a strong crop, but Mississippi rains prevented state growers from producing a repeat of last year's record high.
Dr. Tom Jones, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said Mississippi's total production is about 1/3 less than what was produced in 1996.
Last year, Mississippi produced an average of 48 bushels per acre on about 230,000 acres. This year, production dropped substantially to about 39 bushels per acre on 200,000 acres throughout Mississippi.
Average prices this year are expected to be around $3.43 per bushel, compared to $4.35 per bushel in 1996.
"In some areas prices have decreased as much as $2 per bushel," Jones said.
"State production is down this year, but nationally more than a million additional acres are being harvested with an average increased yield of 2.1 bushels per acre from last year," Jones said.
An increased national production is also predicted, with about 20 million to 25 million more bushels than last year. Kansas, which suffered a drought in 1996, had better conditions for wheat this year and produced much better yields.
Although national yields increased, Mississippi growers had too much rain during crucial periods of the growing season.
"Rain that started Memorial weekend contributed to a delayed harvest and lowered grain quality by reducing wheat's test weight," said Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at MSU.
Earlier rains in February and March delayed farmers from fertilizing, and March rains caused some field abandonment.
"Weather from the latter half of April through May was more favorable, and state yields are actually higher than expected," Larson said.
"But final wheat acreage being harvested in the state is at least 25,000 acres less than was originally planned," he said.
Larson said the wheat had suffered some disease pressure. Growers used some fungicide applications to control rust and septoria diseases, but there were few problems out of the ordinary.