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Frequent rains prevent planting of state's corn
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Rains every few days across much of the state have kept corn producers out of the field and are threatening to prevent much of the crop from being planted on time.
Erick Larson, small grains specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show the crop only 50 percent planted by the week of April 10.
"We have essentially not planted any corn the first two weeks of April. This is the time Mississippi growers normally plant the bulk of our corn crop," Larson said. "The planting has been delayed by widespread rainfall events occurring every four to six days."
Depending on the soil type, farmers generally need five to 10 days of dry weather before they can go back into a field to plant. The problem with late planting is that crop development is pushed later into the summer when drought stress is more likely to reduce yield potential.
"We are in dire need of two weeks of dry weather so farmers can finish up planting what corn we intend to," Larson said. "It's getting marginal enough in terms of recommended corn planting dates that growers may be forced to plant alternative crops which can be planted later."
The majority of the state's corn is grown in three planting zones. April 10 was the latest date for optimum planting in the south up to Issaquena and Kemper counties. The latest optimum date for areas north of that to Bolivar and Monroe counties is April 20, while the northernmost part of the state is April 25.
Larson said most corn acreage that can't get planted in time likely will go to cotton or soybeans. Corn acreage was predicted at 400,000 acres this year, down 60,000 acres from last year, but Larson said if the rain doesn't let up, corn won't even reach that mark.
Ernie Flint, Extension agronomic crops agent in Attala County, said by mid-April only about 30 percent of the intended corn had been planted in the central hills area of the state.
"Normally we would be all planted by about April 10," Flint said.
He is suggesting growers in his area quit planting corn after April 20 unless they have commitments for the corn or a strong need to have it in rotation.
"Quite a few growers in the Rankin, Madison and Holmes county area have really good arrangements with some of the chicken feed mills," Flint said. "I expect they will plant on to the end of April because they need to continue that arrangement with the buyers."
Another reason is the tremendous yield increase cotton producers get when they rotate with corn. Flint said because of poor soil fertility and nematode problems in the area, cotton growers who plant corn for a year or two can see a 200 to 400 pound increase in cotton per acre.
Dennis Reginelli, Extension area agronomic crops agent in Noxubee County, said planting in east Mississippi was only about 6 percent complete by mid-April.
"We are way behind last year and way behind a normal production," Reginelli said. "For most east Mississippi growers, if we could get four good planting days, we could knock out the biggest portion of the crop. We're not giving up, but it's pushing us."
Much of the success of a late-planted crop will depend on ideal temperatures in the next few weeks and timely rains in June. When corn is planted late, other crop planting schedules also must be adjusted.
"Being late with this corn crop has put everything happening at one time, and it's really going to challenge the growers' management practices," Reginelli said.