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State's major crops drenched in rainfall
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Tropical Storm Bill and a very wet June mean the state's major row crops stayed waterlogged, but producers aren't ready to call the season a wash.
The southern and eastern parts of the state saw most of the rainfall in June, but the northern and western crops didn't escape the soaking, averaging as much as 14 percent more than the normal amount of rainfall in some areas. Central and east-central crops received double the normal amount in June.
"In June, we had rain 13 days in the east-central part of the state, and the normal for that area is 8.5 days. That's nearly 50 percent more rain days than normal," said state climatologist Charles Wax, a professor in Mississippi State University's geosciences department. "The Coast has been the wettest by far with about 21 days of rain in the month of June."
MSU Extension specialists in each of the major commodity crops agree the excessive rainfall and overcast conditions have caused problems, but to varying degrees depending on the crop. The cotton crop probably suffered the most from the saturated conditions, which delayed planting and field work, and caused nonuniform crops and underdeveloped root systems.
"Cotton does not tolerate wet conditions very well. Some crops have been lost and some had to be replanted," said Will McCarty, Extension cotton specialist.
"But a more serious problem is that cotton has not been able to develop a very good root system," McCarty said. "If the weather suddenly turns hot and dry, our dryland cotton could have difficulties."
More rain and clouds would also be bad for the crop, further complicating field work and damaging cotton development. Despite the obstacles, McCarty said the state does have "some pretty cotton."
The news for the corn crop is slightly better but not particularly good. Saturated conditions stunted growth, reduced acreage and caused nitrogen fertilizer loss.
"Saturated soil stunted corn growth and caused substantial nitrogen loss, contributing to the small, yellow-colored corn plants in north Mississippi," said Extension corn specialist Eric Larson. He said the intended acreage for corn was 600,000, but only about 500,000 acres were planted because of rainfall during March and April.
The good news is that corn's water needs peak during early July, so rainfall will generally benefit corn, unless soils remain saturated.
Although the corn yield potential is not determined until the end of July, Larson said northern areas will probably see poor yields as a result of excessive May and June rain.
"The corn crop in areas that have not experienced excessive rainfall looks very good," he added.
Mississippi's rice crop has not seen much damage from the rain, and for the most part the crop is in good condition. The challenge has been getting the soil to dry out so fertilizer can be applied to the later-planted rice.
"We like to put pre-flood fertilizer on dry soil," said Joe Street, Extension rice specialist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville. "But rain won't hurt much once rice is flooded, and it may actually be beneficial because growers won't have to pump as much water to the crops. However, extended periods of rain may increase disease problems."
Soybean development has not been harmed greatly by the excessive rain, but the frequent overcast weather that goes along with it is ideal for disease.
"We've actually had good, Midwest-type weather -- not really a normal Southern summer thus far," said Extension soybean specialist Alan Blaine. "But we need a break from showers so we can get in the fields and finish planting."
The climatologist said while there is no great indication of more rain, "what happens in the next two weeks is anybody's guess."