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Growers teeter on a multi-crop disaster
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Late summer rains are pushing Mississippi yields to the verge of a multi-crop disaster.
Will McCarty, leader of Extension plant and soil sciences at Mississippi State University, said the list of rain-related problems or potential problems is a long one. Excessive moisture and warm temperatures are causing seeds to rot and/or sprout in the heads of grain sorghum, soybeans and cotton in some areas. Saturated soils are increasing the risk of winds putting some crops on the ground and complicating the upcoming harvest.
"We've got rice that is on the ground and will be difficult to harvest, corn that is vulnerable to wind damage, grain sorghum that is spouting in the heads, seed rot in soybeans, and boll rot in cotton and seeds sprouting in the bolls," McCarty said. "Quality of all crops is being compromised, and the value of the respective crops is going down. Prices were already low and quality discounts will drive them even lower."
The agronomist said some people want to compare this year's conditions to the disaster of 1984 when relentless storms hit in late September and October, dumping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas.
"In my opinion, the potential damage this year is worse than in 1984. The rains occurred earlier in the year and are associated with high humidity and hot temperatures. Seed rot and seed sprouting in the boll is far worse this year than in 1984. We haven't really picked any cotton yet, and now the crop is going backwards fast," McCarty said.
"Seed and lint prices were low to start with and this just makes it worse. We are losing cotton from a yield stand point (to boll rot) and we're also losing from a price standpoint as the quality deteriorates," McCarty said. "Losses associated with deterioration of cotton seed could significantly increase ginning cost for the growers as well."
Grain crops agronomist Erick Larson said sorghum fields are experiencing disaster conditions, especially in the south and central Delta, as the crop is more susceptible to kernel sprouting than are the other row crops. In many instances, almost all of the grain sorghum kernels have sprouted in unharvested fields.
"Pre-harvest sprouting will likely deteriorate sorghum grain quality beyond normal standards defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for marketing grain sorghum and cause substantial storage problems," Larson said. "In that case, producers will have to search for local feed markets for their crop if elevators will not accept their grain because of poor quality."
Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, said the rains also are taking a tremendous toil on this year's soybean crop. The soybeans most susceptible are in the fields that were ready for harvest when the rains arrived.
"Many fields have problems with a rapidly progressing seed rot. There is a small degree of sprouting of unharvested seed, but in effected fields, this condition is minimal because most seed are too severely deteriorated to sprout," Blaine said.
Joe Street, rice specialist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said about 15 percent of the rice crop is lodged, or on the ground. A very small percentage of the standing crop has grains germinating in the heads. Growers are working to harvest standing rice as soon as possible, and the fields with lodging will be harvested at a slower rate.
"We've gone from the potential of the best crop in a long time to a crop that should be just a little above average," Street said.
This year, Mississippi growers planted 1.7 million acres of cotton, 1.3 million acres of soybeans, 400,000 acres of corn, 240,000 acres of rice and 95,000 acres of grain sorghum.