"In 2012 we had as many as 490 growing degree days in March," says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist. "This year, it took the entire month of March, plus April, to get to that same level of growing degree days.” The cold weather and frequent rains cut Mississippi's corn plantings by as much as 40 percent.
It’s not exactly news to farmers unable to plant their intended acreage of corn that this spring was frustratingly cold and wet.
But growing degree day numbers quantify just how off kilter from normal this planting season has been.
“Fourteen days during March had zero growing degree days,” says Erick J. Larson, associate Extension/research professor of plant and soil sciences at Mississippi State University, who spoke at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s joint soybean, corn, wheat, and feed grains advisory committee meeting at Grenada, Miss.
“Of the 31 days in March, 23 had less than 2 growing degree days, and 17 days in the month had temperatures in the 30s.
That was just opposite from 2012, when we had as many as 490 growing degree days in March. This year, it took the entire month of March, plus April, to get to that same level of growing degree days.”
Initial planting intentions indicated Mississippi farmers would plant over 1 million acres, Larson says, “the largest acreage in a long, long time. But the wet spring didn’t allow us to get anywhere close to intentions. Statewide, I’d say we planted about 60 percent of our intended acreage.
“There would’ve had a lot of replanting, but growers didn’t have the opportunity to do much replanting. Many chose to continue planting as much of their intended acreage as possible, but by the time it stopped raining, it was well into May.
“Because of the challenges associated with cool temperatures and rain, we have a lot more stand problems than normal. A lot of those with poor stands have elected to carry them to harvest rather than replanting.”
Most of the crop is behind schedule, Larson says. “Some corn started to tassel and silk about June 5-10, but in the latest crop report for the state, we only had 42 percent silking, compared to 85 percent normal. The crop is going to be later maturing, and the temperatures we have over the next 20 days to 30 days will be really important in terms of yield potential and how the crop progresses.”
Grain sorghum acreage in the state will be well above original intentions, Larson says, to about 100,000 acres, much of the increase from acres coming out of corn. “April intentions were only about 45,000 acres.
“We’re wrapping up a larger wheat crop,” Larson says, “about 420,000 acres, with the latest estimate increased from the previous month to about 57 bushels per acre. In general, harvest figures have been better than expected, considering how wet and challenging the spring has been. But I think the average will stay under 60 bushels per acre.”
Growers can check the mississippi-crops.com website for reports on crop conditions, insects/diseases, newsletters, blogs, contacts for specialists, and other information.