Mississippi corn endures spring challenges

Spring storms have dampened Mississippi corn growers' fields, but not their hopes for the 2003 crop.

Some growers have had to evaluate replanting decisions to make sure whatever they do is money well spent. They know lost time reduces yield potential and profit, and every pass across the field is going to be expensive with fuel prices at current levels.

Erick Larson, grain crops specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said most corn has an acceptable stand. However, heavy rains April 6 and the cool temperatures following caused some flooding and uneven emergence.

“Areas with a lot of rain had soil washed from the plant's base, which exposed roots and caused some mortality,” Larson said. “Some low fields and those near rivers lost stands due to flooding and will require replanting to corn or another crop, depending on the herbicide situation.”

Larson said another problem in some areas is stunted growth caused by phosphorus deficiency, a typical problem when plants are 6 to 12 inches tall.

“Wet and cooler soil temperatures hinder phosphorus uptake at a time when plants begin experiencing fast growth and increased nutrient demands,” Larson said. “That causes the lower leaves to turn purple. Soil testing and following fertility recommendations can prevent the problem. Time usually solves the problems when the soil dries and warms up so the roots can expand their growth.”

Ernie Flint, Extension area agronomic agent based in Attala County, Miss., said quite a few growers are settling for marginal stands rather than replanting, but some are biting the bullet and replanting. Most replanting decisions have stemmed from combined low temperatures, heavy rains and flooding.

“Corn acreage is down in my area, with some growers suspending their corn/cotton rotation in favor of a year of wall-to-wall cotton. The main reasons are the hope of better prices for cotton and concern about pest problems in corn, including sugarcane beetle and Southwestern corn borer,” Flint said.

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.

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