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Dry corn fields reduce odds for record yields
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's corn may not produce a record yield three-peat in 2005, but many fields still have benefitted from spotty showers in recent weeks.
Much of Mississippi's corn is looking good despite being behind schedule. The areas of the state that haven't received rain since mid-April could prevent the state from posting high average yields. The northwest and north-central parts of the state are extremely dry, and non-irrigated corn there is suffering.
The state's corn growers posted record averages in 2003 and 2004, and in four of the last six crop seasons. Growers averaged 136 bushels per acre and $2.40 per bushel in 2004.
This year, weather has challenged the crop throughout the season. Rains at planting time prevented a timely start for much of the crop.
Erick Larson, Mississippi State University Extension Service small grains specialist, said much of the state's crop is seven to 10 days behind schedule because of planting delays and may not reach maturity until the first week of August. The later-maturing crop makes any rains received in July beneficial for the overall outlook of the corn. Larson said the biggest consideration for this crop is that the typical weather patterns mean less rain when the crop needs it most.
"While dry areas will have significantly reduced yields, corn in most of the state is in fairly good condition," he said. "Fortunately, most of the fields in the driest areas are irrigated."
Art Smith, Extension area agronomy agent, works out of Tunica County where the weather has been very dry.
"Yields probably will be reduced by 25 to 50 percent in dryland corn," Smith said. "After corn reaches a certain point in maturity, it must have everything it needs to finish out. Corn in this area has passed the point where a significant rain will help."
Smith said the exception is the fields that are irrigated. Even in those fields, non-irrigated edges show the signs of extreme drought stress.
John Anderson, Extension agricultural economist, said weather conditions across the Corn Belt, specifically in Illinois, are making the corn market "extremely volatile," which could be good news for Mississippi growers.
"A volatile market may create good pricing opportunities for corn growers. They should know what they need to get for their crop and be ready to take advantage of profitable pricing opportunities when they occur," Anderson said. "The nature of weather markets is that they are very tough to call; like the weather, they can be very unpredictable."
In the market days surrounding the July Fourth holiday, prices fluctuated as much as 25 cents per bushel around an average of $2.40.
"When the weather looks less than ideal in the Corn Belt, prices go up," Anderson said. "This is a good time to keep a close eye on the market."