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Mississippi corn recovers from rains

Mississippi's corn crop should post yields at or near last year's state record of 135 bushels per acre despite problems caused by June rains.

Early season estimates this year predicted Mississippi growers would plant 450,000 acres of corn, down 18 percent from 2003. But Mississippi State University Extension Service grain crops agronomist Erick Larson said that with a good planting season and higher prices, growers planted 470,000 acres.

The overabundance of rainfall in June will limit corn production levels somewhat in most areas. Larson said June rains saturated soils for extended periods, which stunted corn growth and contributed to nitrogen loss and disease development.

“The June rains reduced yields for some growers who irrigate corn, but non-irrigated yields overall have been very good because the rainfall prevented any drought stress,” Larson said. “The rainfall in June also may have reduced corn borer populations slightly.”

Wet conditions promoted the development of Northern corn leaf blight, especially in fields that have susceptible hybrids and that were previously planted in corn. The disease reduced yields in some severely infected fields by as much as 30 percent.

Even so, the statewide yield average should meet or exceed last year's state record yield, Larson said. He estimated the corn crop was more than 60 percent harvested in late August, with most of the unharvested corn in the northern and northeastern parts of the state.

Dennis Reginelli, Extension area agronomic crops agent, said growers in Noxubee County benefited from early planting, ideal weather and smart management.

Most growers in the area grew corn on raised beds, which increased drainage during the heavy June rains. Reginelli said the timely use of burndown herbicides also contributed to his area's excellent crop. “Growers did a good job of putting out burndown herbicides to kill what was on the fields, which allowed them to plant early in weed-free and warm seedbeds.”

The early start of planting gave corn sufficient time to develop strong root systems before the June rains. Reginelli expected harvest in his area to be completed by the second week in September, with yields around 165 bushels per acre — exceeding that county's previous record of 137 bushels per acre.

Sunny, low-humidity conditions would be ideal for the rest of the harvest season. Larson said growers would like to avoid severe thunderstorms with high winds. “High wind is the biggest threat to unharvested corn because winds could cause plants to lodge.”

Jerry Singleton, Extension area agronomic crops agent based in Leflore County, Miss., said winds reached as high as 45 miles per hour and caused some corn lodging in late August. Still, yields in the range of 140 to 175 bushels per acre are common in his area.

“The yields will not break the county record of 161 bushels per acre set last year,” Singleton said. “The weather problems hurt us too much.”

Keryn Page writes for Mississippi State University Ag Communications.

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