Stalled Southern Planting

Heavy rains in Southern states are keeping farmers out of fields and delaying corn planting.

“I can sum up conditions in one word: wet,” says Matt Myers with Myers Agriculture Consulting in Clayton, Louisiana. “We received anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 inches of rain last week.”

According to the USDA NASS report for the week ending March 15, no corn planting has been done in Louisiana, putting the state well behind the five-year average when 20% is done at this time.

“With continued rains, soil is supersaturated and it will be awhile before preparation can take place,” says Henry Harrison, an Extension agent from the Washington Parish in Louisiana. “Although with sandy soils, drying out is rapid with adequate days of sunshine.”

Texas farmers are also dealing with soggy conditions. “We had over 3 inches of rain at the beginning of last week, and this was pretty widespread in southeast Texas,” says Dan Bradshaw, Crop Aid Ag Consultants in El Campo, Texas. “There is some sandy ground that was planted and is up, but that’s about it.”

Approximately 11% of Texas corn acres are planted, down from the five-year average at 25%.

No corn planting has been done in Mississippi, although this is in line with the five-year average that puts corn planting at 0%. However, delayed fieldwork and wet conditions will most likely delay corn planting in this state as well.

“Rain, rain, and rain,” says Stephen Winters, an Extension agent in Mississippi's Grenada County. “It’s been wet for more than three weeks, and it will be at least 10 to 14 days before we can get in the field if it stops raining.”

It doesn't look like the rain is going to let up anytime soon for the Southern Delta and Southeast region.

"Rainfall is expected to pick up considerably across southern Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina," said Don Keeney, Senior Agricultural Meteorologist for MDA Weather Services. "This will push field preparations and early corn planting further behind." The region should finally catch a break mid to late next week.

Change in crops
Myers, who farms in addition to his consulting work, says more farmers in his area are planning on planting soybeans than in previous years. More producers are also taking a second look at sorghum.

“There is a pretty big premium on sorghum right now,” he says. “Instead of corn, I think more producers may plant sorghum.”

The same is true in Texas. “If the rain pattern continues and planting is delayed, there will likely be a shift to plant more grain sorghum,” explains Bradshaw. “Sorghum has a price advantage, and the cost to plant is lower than corn. Sorghum is also more drought-tolerant than corn, but it does have a greater harvest weather risk.”

Sorghum planting in Texas is currently at 4%, which is behind the five-year average of 18%.

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