Mississippi corn ready for harvest

While too much rain hurt corn fields in north Mississippi, the rest of the state's crop is expected to set new record yield levels.

Much cooler conditions in June and July and well-above average rainfall throughout the season are responsible for the high expectations. However, the excessive rainfall did cause yield reduction in northern counties, and too much more rain during harvest could be bad news.

“Wind and tropical storms could prevent a record yield by causing considerable harvest difficulty and reduced yields,” said Erick Larson, Mississippi State University Extension Service grain crops agronomist. “Continued rainfall may delay harvest and promote stalk lodging caused by inclement weather and Southwestern corn borers.”

The state record average of 130 bushels per acre was set in 2001.

Producers have a tough choice to make in the coming days: harvesting earlier could result in dockage at the elevators from high moisture in grains, but harvesting later runs the risk of damage from strong storms and possible hurricanes.

“It may be a good idea to harvest corn early or at higher moisture and take some dockage at the elevator rather than risking harvest losses caused by inclement weather,” Larson said.

Producers who have the equipment to manually dry grain should use it to their advantage. Harvesting before the plants reach 15 percent moisture can reduce the chances of substantial harvest losses, especially if more rain comes their way.

Larson said producers in northern counties who were forced to replant after March and April rains didn't have much luck.

“The areas that were wet in March and April have continued to receive abundant rainfall,” he explained. “The saturated soil conditions stunted corn growth and caused substantial nitrogen fertilizer loss, contributing to the small, yellow-colored corn plants in north Mississippi.”

Producers planted about 100,000 fewer acres than expected as a result of the early-season rainfall. Despite the obstacles, the Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service rated conditions for the corn crop 50 percent good and 37 percent excellent for the week ending Aug. 3.

Although too much rain has caused problems with the corn crop, the agronomist said too little rain would not have been particularly good either. “Historically, our most limiting factor is from drought stress, but we certainly haven't seen that this year.”

Keryn Page writes for Mississippi State University.

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