During August, crops have changed from lush green to drying fields that are being harvested in many localities.
Soybeans range from ready for the combine to no more than two weeks from maturity with yellowing leaves that mean they are about finished.
Cotton has more late-season disease than we have seen in many years.
In the Delta, rice heads are turning that golden straw color that suggests it’s time to drain and prepare for the harvest.
The peanut crop is the only one that is still green, but it too will soon be ready for the digger.
This year it may take more than average yields and prices for farmers to overcome the backlog of debt from recent years. The reality for some is that this combination may not come together. For them something akin to a miracle will be needed to stay in business. I believe an event of providence will happen to allow them to continue. I wish I was smart enough to see the future and know just how it will take place.
The combination of early wet, midseason dry, and daily rain in late July and August along with high temperatures set the stage for problems.
Diseases, worms, plant bugs, stinkbugs, and other pests have led to an expensive crop for a lot of farmers but have not been much of a problem for others, mainly due to the early-season practices that were applied to influence soil fertility, plant development, and beneficial insect populations.
Many of the producers I work with also have livestock, and I have seen them have more problems with armyworms in pastures and hay fields than during any year in my memory. There is little doubt that most of these issues were weather-related.
Corn yields down
Dryland corn yields are generally down this year, resulting from weather-related stand establishment problems and drought during the grain-filling period. Weather has influenced the development of larval pests of several kinds (kudzu bugs and stinkbugs in soybeans) and the most frequent incidence of aerial web blight I have witnessed.
There have also been significant numbers of fields showing stem canker and SDS.
Another notable problem has been the widespread incidence of potash deficiency that can likely be linked to poor root development during the early wet period.
We are also finding sprouted seed in immature pods. The few brave souls who planted milo are dealing with sprouting of seeds in heads that may render the crop unmarketable.
Bacterial blight in cotton
Possibly the most disconcerting issue is that of disease in cotton. I have not seen such a high incidence of bacterial blight (or angular leaf spot) in cotton since I worked in the cottonseed industry up to the 1970s. Cotton is being prematurely defoliated and rotted over a major portion of the fields I have visited within the last two weeks.
This diseases is carried mainly on planting seed and was very common when most cottonseed was machine delinted with some linters remaining on the seed to harbor bacterial inoculum.
With the advent of acid delinting and mercurial seed treatments, the problem almost disappeared. But with the current use of more “gentle” dilute acid delinting and seed treatments that have little effect, the disease has returned.
The symptoms range from defoliation of green leaves and bolls to premature opening and defoliation of cotton that is almost mature.
There is little doubt of yield loss ranging from light to severe depending upon extent and timing of infection.
And there is little doubt that this issue will impact the future of cotton farming in this region until some kind of effective treatment is developed.
Ernie Flint is an Extension Regional Agronomist with Mississippi State University. Email him at [email protected].