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Corn looking good as growers head into harvest

Nature gave corn a hand this year with moderate temperatures and scattered rains, and Mississippi producers are expecting to harvest near record-high yields.

Erick Larson, grain specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the crop should be ready for harvest on schedule by mid-August. Favorable weather and low insect and disease pressure mean harvests should approach the record-high 117 bushels an acre set in 1999.

“June and July's weather normally determine corn yield,” Larson said. “Above-average rainfall at the end of May and first of June alleviated early-season dry conditions.”

He said temperatures were below normal from the last week of May through June, and July had normal temperatures. This moderate weather was a large factor in producing the high yield farmers expect this year.

“Rain came at a very favorable time for the crop, and we also had low temperatures during that time,” Larson said.

“The warmer it is, the more energy the plant expends maintaining itself. Rather than use water for plant maintenance, you'd rather use it to improve grain production.”

Temperatures in July were fairly normal, with just a few days reaching above 100 degrees. Rains were widespread and sporadic, but did help the corn-growing areas.

“These rains relieved irrigation where the producers had irrigation, and allowed dryland corn to be more productive,” Larson said.

Insects have not caused many problems this year, although Larson said there were early problems with cutworms, chinch bugs and sugarcane beetles. Corn borer infestations were light except for Prentiss, Tippah and Alcorn counties. Disease problems have been almost non-existent.

Tim Pepper, Yazoo County Extension agent, said area corn farmers expect to harvest 125 to 140 bushels per acre planted on good ground. In 2000, they harvested 110 to 125 bushels an acre.

“I think we've got a pretty good crop,” Pepper said of the county's about 35,000 acres of corn.

Producers had basically no disease problems and very few insect problems with the crop other than some cutworms in fields planted late.

“It got a little bit dry after we planted, and the people who planted late had to wait for rain for the corn to really start growing,” Pepper said. “After it started growing, we got adequate rain until July when the crop was pretty well made.”

High fuel and fertilizer costs and some of the lowest corn prices in 25 years are limiting growers' hopes for the profits this crop might have provided despite the excellent harvest outlook.

Bonnie Coblentz writes for Mississippi State University Ag Communications.

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