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Corn Struggles On Most State Farms
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Projections for this year's corn crop depend on who you ask.
Widely scattered rains across the state mean some farmers are looking at great crops while others expect losses of 75 percent. Drought is the primary concern.
"The extent varies from severe to moderate, depending on the locale," said Erick Larson, corn specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. He added corn borers and common rust to the list of threats facing this year's harvest.
Statewide, corn is shorter this year because most was planted much earlier than normal. Corn height should not affect yield potential if the plants still provide a full canopy. Actually, shorter plants require less water, so that may improve drought tolerance.
Common rust was a significant problem in some areas, but the warm temperatures and dry weather have curtailed it. What's raising concern now is the corn borer, Larson said.
"There's generally three generations of corn borers each season, with more borers each generation," Larson said. "This year, the first generation had high numbers, so we're expecting a fairly high number of corn borers in the next generation that will appear any day."
Dennis Reginelli, Noxubee County agent, said his county's 26,000 acres of corn have a serious lack of rain. April had almost 9 inches of rain all in the first week of the month and May added less than 1 inch
"You put above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall on corn and you've got a disaster situation. That's what a lot of farmers are faced with," Reginelli said.
Noxubee County saw corn yields in 1999 that averaged 122 bushels an acre. This year, Reginelli expects yields to range from 25 to 75 percent less than that. Sufficient rain now would stop the ears shrinking more every day and help the corn that has not yet pollinated.
"The weathermen tell us it may be September before we get out of this drought," Reginelli said. "It may take a hurricane to help us, although late storms can damage more than they help."
On the other side of the state, Washington County Extension agent Guy Wilson said the corn crop looks good with 80 to 90 percent tasseling. About 40 percent of the crop is irrigated, but the county has gotten enough rain to avoid the drought much of the rest of the state is under.
Producers had a tough time getting the crop in with the ground so wet, but conveniently spaced rains came and insect and disease pressures have been relatively low.
"The corn right now is looking real good. I hope this year is going to be a good year for our corn producers," Wilson said, adding that he anticipates a crop of 100 bushels per acre on his county's 16,000 acres. This is down from 1999's yield of 130 bushels per acre.
Clint Young, Lee County agent, said the northern part of the state is suffering from scattered rains after being hampered getting the crop planted this spring because of too much rain.
"We got so much rain in April that some people were not able to get their crop planted or were forced to replant," Young said. "A lot of the crop didn't get rain in May and is getting hit by insects now. Overall, I think there's the possibility of having some reduced yields because of the slow start, insects and low water supplies. It's critical that we get rain in the last half of June."