April 16, 2011 7:09:00 PM
Crop producers have been busy planting corn, and while those in drier areas are nearly finished, those in wetter areas are trying to catch up.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the crop was 79 percent planted by April 10. The bulk of the acres yet to be planted are in northeast Mississippi, where frequent rains have kept producers out of soggy fields.
Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said much of the crop in the Delta, where the majority of the state''s corn is located, was planted the last 10 days of March.
"Most of the corn that has been planted has emerged and is growing slowly," Larson said. "We''ve had quite a bit of cooler weather intermixed with extremely hot days. In general, the corn is in good condition and management is proceeding on schedule."
A storm that passed through the state April 11 produced high winds that whipped and battered emerged corn plants.
"The most significant damage occurred in sandy fields, where high winds blew soil particles into plants, causing sand-blasting injury," Larson said. "However, this physical injury to corn vegetation is not anticipated to reduce productivity significantly as the critical growing point of young corn is underground."
Larson said corn''s growing point is under ground until the plant gets about a foot tall.
"If the leaves are damaged, regrowth will likely occur in warm, favorable conditions," Larson said. "The plant may have to push the dead tissue aside, but given good growing conditions, it can resume growth with little yield loss."
USDA has forecasted Mississippi growers will plant 860,000 acres of corn, a figure Larson called optimistic. The state had 750,000 corn acres last year. Cotton acres are expected to be up this year, too, and much of corn and cotton''s increase will come from acres planted last year in soybeans and rice.
Although a wetter-than-normal March left fields in northeast Mississippi too wet to plant, most of the south Delta is drier than normal.
Lester Stephens, Extension agronomic crops agent in Washington County, said nearly all the corn in the county is planted, but the fields need rain.
"We don''t have enough subsoil moisture," Stephens said. "The National Weather Service classifies Washington, Bolivar, Sunflower, Tallahatchie and Coahoma counties as under severe drought because of the dry summer and fall last year."
Stephens said the area has had some recent rain showers, but not enough to put moisture more than a few inches into the ground. About 80 percent of the corn crop in Washington County is irrigated.
"We have a little bit of moisture in the top 5 to 7 inches, but when you get down deeper than that, it''s dry," Stephens said.
Although soil moisture is a concern, growers are optimistic about prices.
John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said good prices were largely responsible for corn gaining acres in Mississippi this year. September corn futures prices are $6.97 per bushel. The cash price at the elevators in Greenville was $6.87 on April 12.
"Prices for all commodities have been strong since July 2010 due to tight supplies across the globe," Riley said. "Corn prices are continuing to show strength and have been moving higher most days over the past few weeks."
Riley said the increase in corn prices is supported by growing export demand and increased ethanol demand as a result of higher fuel prices.