MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — Planting season is fast approaching. A few March days have afforded the opportunity already to plant some corn and soybeans.

Given our weather since late January, it has been difficult to make much progress. Farmers in some areas of Mississippi were able to work rutted fields for several days in mid-January, but many remain rutted. With all the rain, many fields that were tilled appear as if they have been re-seeded with vegetation.

Most burndown materials should have been applied by now. Only recently has the weather been somewhat cooperative, but time is of the utmost importance if burndown materials have not yet been applied.

Even if you plan to work a field, any amount of green vegetation, particularly if it is rank, will cause fields to stay wet and cool longer. Rutted fields will make planting later than most would like. Later planting may set us up for a later-than-normal fall.

Look at fields individually — even if you plan to till. A burndown may help dry some fields. Follow burndown restrictions in the Delta. As vegetation gets larger, adjust rates accordingly.

Scout fields for weed species and their size. That is probably more important today than it was a month ago. Do the job as inexpensively as possible. Some mixes and rates that are applied amaze me.

Many farmers are concerned about being late applying burndowns. In the last 10 days, pilots and ground rigs have been under pressure to apply burndowns. Some were able to catch a window early, but this winter was much different than those of the past couple of years. Extremely wetness has kept vegetation suppressed to some degree, but extended, cold weather and extremely wet fields have delayed growth.

I don't believe most areas were late as of mid-March, but given the amount of moisture available, the picture is changing rapidly. Many weeds are already blooming, so additional growth will be limited on some species. Small vegetation with a charged soil profile and 65-plus-degree days will cause the picture to change rapidly.

Regardless of what has happened to this point, think early. As a whole, this crop is going to be more expensive than most, due to the increased need for tillage or a burndown and tillage.

Even a burndown less than 100 percent effective will slow the growth of existing vegetation. The use of Roundup Ready crops or a second shot behind the planter can make a less-than-desirable burndown successful.

There's a lot of interest in earlier-maturing varieties (Group 3) because of the variable weather patterns over the last two years. Earlier-maturing varieties will be shorter in height and will mature earlier. Early planting on cool, wet soils can cause even shorter plants.

Mixed-to-sandy soils will not be affected as much as clays.

It appears that some varieties are affected more than others — a photo-period effect or the growth potential of a particular variety. For example, Delta King's 3964 and Asgrow's 3702 were planted last year. Because DK 3964 has exhibited more growth early, it would be better-suited for early planting.

Growth of all Group 3s and Group 4s can be increased by delaying planting. Plant growth can be maximized by planting in a cotton window (April 20 to May 15). Based on what we have observed thus far, maturity Group 4s are going to be less affected by early planting than Group 3s, so you may want to plant some Group 4s first and then some Group 3s.

Group 4s and later-planted Group 3s can mature at the same time. This will not spread maturity, but may be necessary on some soil types.

This year is seed availability is an issue. Do not push planting dates too early. Get a stand the first time; you cannot afford to replant, and if have to replant, you will not replant the variety you first planted.

Do not get in a hurry to plant, but when you plant, do everything in your power to achieve a uniform, optimum stand. Use proper seed treatments, correct seeding rates, and optimum planting depths.

Alan Blaine is the Mississippi Extension soybean specialist.

e-mail: ablaine@pss.msstate.edu