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Corn May Produce Respectable Yields
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Growers certainly would have liked better yields, but most of them know this year's growing conditions could have taken an even higher toll than they did.
"Corn yields are turning out pretty well in spite of the hot, dry conditions," said Erick Larson, corn specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Most of the credit goes to early planting. It just depends on when the plants ran out of moisture."
Larson said many fields were able to get through the pollination stage by mid-June before Mother Nature turned against them.
Average corn yields will not be as high as last year's record 117 bushels per acre. This year's state average is predicted to be around 103 bushels per acre. Larson said the hardest hit dryland corn may produce yields between 60 and 70 bushels per acre. Irrigated fields are yielding slightly less than normal, but some are still producing more than 200 bushels per acre.
"Normally, aflatoxin is associated with drought stress like in 1998. Despite this summer's weather, Mississippi's corn has not had a significant problem yet," Larson said. "The main difference in 1998's weather and this year's was that May and June were hotter in 1998."
Aflatoxin, which results from a fungal disease, was a major problem in 1998 and contributed to growers' decisions to plant significantly fewer corn acres in 1999. This year, growers may harvest 380,000 acres, an increase of 70,000 from last year, but still significantly below the 550,000 acres harvested in 1998.
Dennis Reginelli, Noxubee County Extension agent, said this year's crop also had less stress from corn earworms and other insects. Stressed corn is more susceptible to aflatoxin.
"Yields are looking surprisingly higher than we would have expected in such a dry year," Reginelli said. "It's interesting to see what this blackland soil can do for you."
Warm, dry conditions in late February and early March enabled Noxubee County growers to plant much of their 26,000 acres of corn early. Almost 9 inches of rain in April forced growers to replant low- lying fields. The later plantings did not produced as well.
"While that April rain hurt poorly drained areas, it looks like it helped more than we realized since we haven't gotten much rain since," Reginelli said. "This year's yields are a tribute to the water-holding capacity of this prairie land."