Mid-South wheat, corn struggling

Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn and wheat specialist, says Mississippi fields are facing tough times.

“This past week or two isn’t good for our wheat,” said Larson. “A lot of the crop has started jointing and gaining some stem elongation. Wet weather at this time can significantly reduce yield potential. Unfortunately, it looks like our wheat yields will be negatively impacted.

“I’m hoping we’ll dry out some. But I just got off the phone with someone who said heavy rain is predicted this week. That’s not good news.”

Most of Mississippi’s wheat is grown in the Delta area, says Larson. Many of the soils there aren’t rolling and are subject to poor surface drainage. That aggravates the problems caused by wet weather.

“We were already fairly wet before these latest rains arrived. It didn’t take a whole lot of rain to cause the wheat trouble right across the Delta. The sub-surface moisture was plentiful and it didn’t really matter whether one area got 3 inches of rain versus another area that got 5 inches – it was all affected adversely.”

Last week, the crop estimate from agriculture statisticians came out. The statisticians have the Mississippi wheat crop at less than 50 percent in good to excellent condition.

“Typically, the weather and environmental conditions during April and early May determine wheat yield more than anything else. If we continue to have these adverse conditions, an even more substantial negative impact will be felt,” says Larson.

Mississippi farmers got a lot of corn planted the first week of March, especially in the Delta region, says Larson. Those fields have been subjected to the same weather that’s taken a toll on the wheat crop.

“I’m very concerned we’ll have some stand loss associated with that. Not only was it extremely wet but also soil temperatures have been cool. That means the corn germination rate has slowed and could mean stand failure in some fields.”


Meanwhile, William Johnson, Arkansas Extension corn and wheat specialist, figures 10 percent of the state’s wheat has been lost.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of wheat acres underwater. There’s at least 5,000 acres that have been completely lost. The White River and Arkansas River areas are really saturated. The wheat there is really going to be hard pressed to make a good crop. The White River is as high as I’ve seen it.”

Up and down the White River, over the last few years many farmers have been getting away with putting wheat in, says Johnson. This year, the luck ran out.

“The same thing is being seen along the Arkansas River, but to a lesser extent. From Batesville to Clarendon, the ground is waterlogged and the wheat looks rough. The rivers and streams are backed up and it looks like after the wheat has been under water for three days, the water takes it completely down.

“On fields with flatter ground, I’d say typically out of every 40 acres, 5 or 6 acres on the bottom end won’t be very good wheat.”

The crop is starting to joint and whenever you start getting these types of problems during the reproductive stage, yield will be hurt, says Johnson.

“April is key. If it’s overly wet in April, we won’t make any wheat. If we get a bunch of rain this week, there will be serious problems. We could lose 20 to 25 percent of the crop.”

One good thing is with the cold weather and rain, rust isn’t being seen. About three weeks ago, temperatures got down into the teens and that helped kill the rust, says Johnson.

It’s been too wet to get much corn planted, says Johnson.

“I think some has been planted in southwest Arkansas, but that’s it.”


According to Ed Twidwell, Louisiana wheat is in much better shape than its immediate neighbors’ to the north and east.

“(Early in March) it got pretty cold here with some freezes. The wheat wasn’t at a critical maturity stage, though, so it didn’t cause too much trouble. Any stands that were hurt were planted very early. Overall, thus far, this year has been positive for our wheat,” says Twidwell, Louisiana Extension wheat specialist.

The state is seeing some stripe rust but leaf rust is yet to become a problem.

“We’ve had some rains, but for sure not nearly as much as folks east of us. It’s been humid, though, and we’re leery about diseases, especially leaf rust. We should know if those fears are justified by mid-April or so.”

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