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Mississippi harvesting record corn crop

MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — Generous summer rains and moderate temperatures helped many Mississippi dryland corn fields produce Midwest-size yields, but other fields could not turn off the faucet and suffered for it.

Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the state's corn fields should produce a new record average, which is becoming an every-other-year tradition. Records were set in 1997, 1999 and 2001, and were 107, 117 and 130 bushels per acre, respectively.

"The average this year should surpass 130 bushels per acre. Mississippi's best acres may yield more than 250 bushels per acre, and many acres will produce more than 200 bushels," Larson said. "The exceptions will be in the northern third of the state where too much rain prohibited or delayed planting and stunted corn growth."

Larson said the excessively wet fields may average 100 bushels per acre. Wet, saturated soils during May and June promoted substantial nitrogen loss, severely limiting corn yield potential.

"Another abnormal problem this year was post-emergence herbicides that caused some corn injury. Those herbicides were applied in May when plants are not normally experiencing any stresses, but this year, many fields were stunted from excessive rainfall and therefore were more susceptible to herbicide damage."

Charlie Stokes, Extension area agronomy crops agent based in Monroe County, said he had test plots that received 30 inches of rain from mid-April through July.

"The worst of it hit a few weeks after planting, but we also had nitrogen losses and stunted growth later," Stokes said. "The plants just didn't have enough energy when it was time to put on the ears."

Stokes said most yields will be between 70 and 140 bushels per acre. The worst acres may only yield 40 bushels.

Across the state in the south Delta, John Coccaro paints a much rosier picture where the differences in irrigated and nonirrigated fields are very slight.

"Our growers have been very fortunate throughout the season. Many planted early, beginning in late February but mostly in March, and early plantings usually yield good results," Coccaro said. "We really had a Midwest kind of summer; we got plenty of rain in June and July to produce a great crop. Night temperatures were not excessive and daytime temperatures were good, too."

Coccaro, area agronomic crops agent based in Sharkey County, said average yields are ranging from 120 to 130 bushels per acre on the low side up to more than 200 bushels per acre on the high side. Harvest weather in late August and September was excellent.

"Growers did not have to contend with a hurricane, rain delays or wind damage," he said. "The only threat during the season was corn borers, but the state had a good monitoring program with Extension agents, consultants and farmers all watching very closely. Growers were ready to treat whenever necessary."

Coccaro said many fields were planted in Bt-hybrids that are toxic to corn borers because of last year's problems and the mild winter. Early trap captures of moths helped warn growers of the potential problem in 2003.

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.

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