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Dry conditions speed southern corn planting

Agriculture.com Staff 02/08/2016 @ 8:29am

Corn planting is progressing quickly toward completion in the southeastern U.S. and slowly moving northward as warming spring temperatures allow.

Unusually dry conditions from Mississippi to Florida have corn planting moving along rapidly, concluding in some parts of the region this week. In Florida, where planting is nearing completion for many farmers, University of Florida agronomist David Wright says the current dry spell could make raising a good corn crop a high-cost venture.

"We are about at half the normal amount for rainfall for the year, and we came out of last year about 20 inches behind," Wright said Wednesday. "Our irrigated growers always make the highest yields during dry years, but the price of the crop may be too high to grow it. We may apply 12 to 15 inches of water at a price of around $12 per acre-inch."

It's been over three weeks since many Mississippi corn growers have received fieldwork-preventing rains, says Mississippi State University Extension agronomist Jerry Singleton. As of Wednesday, March 21, the east-central region of Mississippi including his Leflore County had yet to receive rainfall for the month, already a departure for a typical March in terms of moisture. Statewide soil temperatures are indicative of the drydown, as almost half of the state's soil moistures is rated short or very short, according to the Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service (MASS).

"Here it is March 21, and we've been able to be in the fields every day since March 1. We're starting to get on the dry side, and a few guys have stopped planting corn because of the dry weather," Singleton said Wednesday. "Nobody can recall a March like this. We normally hope to get 15 days of fieldwork in March, and we've already worked 21 of 21 days."

Singleton added the next substantial chance for rain will come late next week. As of March 18, MASS data indicate 50% of the state's corn crop was planted and five percent had emerged.

These dry conditions have propelled the planting of a corn crop that will likely more than double last year's in Mississippi. While he was short of hard numbers this week, Singleton said corn's expansion may be exclusively at the expense of cotton acres.

"The state of Mississippi harvested 325,000 acres of corn last year. I wouldn't be surprised if we push 900,000 to one million acres this year. I've got some higher numbers than others -- others start at 700,000 and up," Singleton says. "If we drop from 1.2 million cotton acres to 600,000, you add those to the 325,000 corn acres, and that puts you up to a million acres. Cotton acres may be cut 40% to 50%."

Corn planting is progressing quickly toward completion in the southeastern U.S. and slowly moving northward as warming spring temperatures allow.

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