For the most part, unseasonably warm weather has been good for corn planting and stand development in the Mid-South – the frequent rain showers, not so much.
“We had a couple of planting windows early in March,” said Mississippi Extension grain specialist Erick Larson. “We actually had some corn that was planted the last week of February and the first week of March.”
Larson says corn has grown quickly with the warm spring, “but we have had some fairly substantial rainfall events after planting that have caused some difficulties associated with water-logging and even flooding in some instances.”
Producers in the south and central Delta “made a lot of progress during the most recent planting window,” Larson said. “We’ve made some progress through the north Delta in the dryland areas, but we still have a substantial part of the crop in the northeast part of the state that has yet to be planted (as of early April).”
Producers who hadn’t started planting by early April are dealing with wet conditions, Larson said. “We’ve have more rainfall in the eastern part of the state versus the Delta.”
Nationwide, a little over 3 percent of the U.S. corn crop had been planted by the beginning of April, according to USDA, far behind the pace of southern producers.
In Mississippi, 66 percent of the corn crop had been planted by April 1, compared to a 5-year average of 52 percent. In Arkansas, 59 percent of corn had been planted compared to a 5-year average of 36 percent. In Louisiana, 81 percent of intended corn acres have been planted, below the 5-year average of 86 percent.
The warm spring has also created challenges for Mid-South wheat producers, Larson noted. Much of the crop is 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule, with over 50 percent headed compared to a 5-year average of around 6 percent. “A lot of farmers were not able to get their nitrogen applications out on time because wheat maturation occurred a lot earlier than normal. Other producers who rely on ground applications of fertilizer weren’t able to make applications because of wet soil conditions. We still have a lot of wheat being fertilized at heading or later.”
Larson said a number of wheat diseases have hit the wheat crop, including stripe rust. “We had some race changes in the rust that we didn’t expect, so it’s caused some difficulty in managing that disease. We’ve started seeing it in January and early February. We’ve had to make a lot of applications to control the spread of that disease.”
In Louisiana, corn planting started as early as Feb. 20 and was still going in early April, according to John Kruse, LSU AgCenter corn specialist. “Louisiana producers had some trouble timing their burndowns ahead of corn planting because of periodic showers. We have one spread-out corn crop.”
Spring showers had producers “picking and choosing fields to plant based on which ones dried out the fastest,” Kruse said. “We have corn from 3-4 true leaves to just planted and everything in between.”
Overall, the state’s corn crop “looks good,” Kruse said. “For the most part, it’s off to a healthy start, although we have had more than a few occasions where producers have had to go back in and replant due to rotted seed.”
Unusually warm March weather pushed corn out of the ground quickly, said Kruse. “It will be interesting to see how this plays out during the summer.”
Kruse says he’s been fielding calls concerning zinc deficiency in corn this spring. “Typically, we’re on the lookout for zinc deficiency in the Red River Valley where we have high pH soils. But it’s been more widespread this spring, and producers have been treating accordingly.”
Kruse, who is also the state’s cotton specialist, said a few producers were planting cotton in late March. That’s a bit risky, but “soil temperatures are well above the minimum and we have good soil moisture.”
In Tennessee, rains have scattered corn planting efforts, but in many areas, rainfall is needed to activate herbicides in advance of glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed, which is already emerging.
Otherwise, planting progress for corn “is full speed ahead right now,” said Angela McClure, corn and soybeans specialist for the state. “Some counties are reporting close to 40 percent planted. Everybody is working around the showers. The forecast looks good for the next 7-10 days, and you couldn’t ask for better temperatures in April.”
Tennessee producers did not get an ultra-early start on corn planting like producers in other states, noted McClure. “We had some rains up until around March 20 that kept us out of fields. But the last week of March, producers got started.”
McClure said corn stands “look good from what I’ve seen. Color is good. We’re fortunate to not have the warm-cold-warm extremes that we normally get this time of the year. It seems to be staying consistently warm.”
Given optimal planting weather, Tennessee could wrap up corn planting within 3 weeks, according to McClure. On the other hand, there is a lot of corn to plant. “Our projected acreage is 950,000 acres which is almost a record for Tennessee,” she said. “It’s going to take a little while to get that planted.”
According to Jason Kelley, wheat and small grains specialist at the University of Arkansas, the state’s corn crop “is off to an excellent start. We started planting around the end of February. A lot of that corn came up in 10-14 days to a perfect stand, and it’s never looked back. We have a lot of good-looking corn right now, and we’re well ahead of schedule. So far, we haven’t had a lot of replants.”