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Mid-South corn starts late

The Mid-South corn crop is a little later but a lot perkier than it was this time last year. And there have been few reports, if any, of the herbicide drift that hurt the 2000 crop. Here's a closer look:

LOUISIANA — The state has nearly completed planting of its intended corn acreage, according to Extension corn specialist Walter Morrison. Louisiana corn producers were able to get most of their corn planted during a dry spell around March 20, but were interrupted by rains toward the end of March. Another dry spell during the first week of April provided an opportunity for most growers to get back in the fields.

However, “A few people got discouraged after the rains and switched to other crops,” Morrison said. “A lot of them switched to cotton.”

For that reason, the state's corn acreage could come in slightly below the USDA's forecast of 180,000 acres. That's quite a drop from 1998, when the state planted 700,000 acres of corn. “That was the year we had all the aflatoxin. The following year, 1999, we dropped to about 350,000 acres and in 2000, we dropped a little more.”

A lot of the state's corn acreage is going into cotton, according to Morrison. “The insurance program is a lot better on cotton. Let's face it. There are a lot of cotton farmers who are farming for the insurance.”

Early-planted corn “is looking pretty good right now,” the specialist said. “The first week of April, we had warm nights and good temperatures and it's growing. Usually, this time of the year, you get a few cold, wet spells and it just sits there. But it's smoking right now.”

Morrison expects grain sorghum acreage in the state to be up considerably from last year, but that will likely come from soybean acreage.

MISSISSIPPI — According to USDA's weekly crop report, Mississippi corn planting was about 44 percent complete as of April 7. “That is considerably behind schedule from where we were last year,” said the state's grain crop agronomist Erick Larson.

However, the Delta region of the state is 80 to 90 percent complete while rain and cool temperatures “have really delayed planting in the Mississippi hills, especially from West Point north.”

Larson hasn't seen or heard of any cases of herbicide drift on corn this year. “I would expect that because we planted later than normal and we haven't had any corn emerge until the last week to 10 days. So the likelihood of drift occurring is going to be a lot less than it was last year.”

Larson also suggested that with later planting dates, (up through May 1) growers should consider lowering plant population “because you have a greater chance of establishing a stand since it's warmer during the germination period. Also, as you get later into the planting season, you might want to use a soil-applied insecticide to prevent problems with chinch bugs.”

ARKANSAS — Corn planting in the state “is going pretty quickly now with the dry weather,” said Extension agronomist William Johnson. “I understand that growers are getting stands within five days of planting. That really helps out, with the seed not having to sit in cold soils.”

Corn acreage will be down a little in Arkansas this year, noted Johnson. As in Louisiana, the cotton insurance program “is taking some acres out of southeast Arkansas. Northeast Arkansas has increased corn acreage a little bit.”

Arkansas has about 60 percent of its 200,000 corn acres planted so far, according to Johnson. “Another two or three days and that could be up to 80 percent.

“The only problem we're having right now is in northeast Arkansas. Blackbirds are trying to pull up the plants right after they come up to get the seed. Growers who planted corn 1.5 to 2 inches deep aren't having nearly the problems that some of the growers who are planting a little shallower are having.”

Johnson says that reports of herbicide drift into corn aren't a problem this year. “A lot of the burndowns have already been applied. We have been windy the last couple of days, but we had a calm spring when we were doing all the burndowns, so we probably won't have a lot more burndown going out.”

Johnson added that the state's wheat crop “has really perked up in the last week. We have a lot more potholes this year than we've had in the last two, so that could pull our average down a bit. But where we had good drainage, the crop looks really strong.”

While the weather was favorable for corn emergence, Johnson said wheat growers were hoping that temperatures would drop down to the 70s as the wheat crop goes into flowering in mid-April. “Once the temperature gets into the mid-80s and your wheat is pollinating, it will start to abort some kernels.”

TENNESSEE — Corn planting in west Tennessee had just gotten started when early April rains parked planters for a few days. “As soon as it dries up, I suspect we'll be at full throttle,” said Extension corn specialist Wayne Flinchum.

“Growers will probably be a little more realistic in the amount of nitrogen they put on their corn crop,” he added. “They want to make sure they put on enough to get their yield, but they don't want to cut it so much that they'll hurt their yields. They're going to be a little more conscious of the rate that they're putting out.”


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