Intense summer heat did a number on Mississippi’s major row crops, and the crops that did best were those planted early and irrigated.
Cotton and soybeans appear to have come through the year in the best shape, but corn and rice look better than expected.
“Overall, the soybean crop has been OK to exceptional,” said Trey Koger, soybean specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. “The majority of the early crop that we harvested was exceptional. Later-planted beans went through the hot, dry weather that really took a toll on the crop.”
Koger said yields will be variable according to planting date and the availability of irrigation. The state’s five-year soybean yield average is 38 bushels an acre.
“Harvest isn’t going to be a record-breaker, but in the end, it should be good,” Koger said. “A few non-irrigated soybeans around the state did well, but for the most part, they took it on the chin.”
Harvest began the latter half of August and moved quickly with ideal weather. Soybean harvest should end on schedule in mid-October.
Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist, characterized the year as a roller coaster ride.
“Mississippi cotton growers enjoyed a great planting season, probably the best one we have had in the last several years,” Dodds said. “However, the heat set in during June, and we remained dry for a large portion of the growing season.”
Many growers with irrigation ran their systems at maximum capacity all season. Record heat in early August raised concerns for the cotton, but yields so far have been good in most areas. The state’s five-year cotton yield average is 850 pounds per acre.
“For the most part, growers are picking much better cotton that anticipated,” Dodds said. “Very good yields are being reported from many areas. Although some cotton was not as good as hoped, overall this is a good crop, especially considering the year we had.”
Cotton harvest began in August and was in full swing in September. Harvest weather has been ideal, but the dry weather is causing some trouble for tillage and soil sampling. Cotton harvest should be nearly complete by the third week of October.
Nathan Buehring, Extension rice specialist, said early-planted rice handled temperatures above 100 degrees during the day and 80 degrees or higher at night better than rice planted after late April.
“Probably about 20 percent of our crop suffered from the heat, which caused a lot of sterile grains, low test weights and more broken kernels than usual,” Buehring said.
Mississippi rice acreage has yielded a five-year average of 6,860 pounds, or 152 bushels, per acre. Buehring expects an average crop this year. Harvest began the second week of August, which was early, and the crop was 95 percent harvested by the first week of October.
Erick Larson, Extension grain crops agronomist, said corn suffered but still produced above-average yields this year. The unofficial yield estimate is 134 bushels per acre.
“Prolonged drought from April through July limited corn productivity, particularly in the Delta,” Larson said. “This limited irrigated productivity, despite having good pollination of the crop and good kernel numbers going into the grain-filling stages of the crop.”
Larson said some timely rainfall in the east-central and northeastern parts of the state helped the crop considerably.
“We certainly wish it could have been a lot more temperate in June and July, but the dry, hot weather during August and September enhanced harvest progress during dry-down and the ability of farmers to get the crop out of the field quickly,” Larson said. “Warm temperatures from mid-April also sped up the crop’s maturity.”
Corn harvest began the first week of August and was 96 percent complete by Sept. 12. The state has average yields of 129 bushels an acre for the last five years. This year, yields depended entirely upon moisture. Irrigated yields were above average to good, while dryland yields ranged from poor to excellent, depending on rainfall, Larson said.
“We have very high-quality corn overall with very good test weights,” Larson said.
John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said prices are generally good for these row crops. Corn is bringing $4.80 to $5 a bushel, cotton 95 cents to $1.05 a pound, rice $11.50 to $12.50 a bushel and soybeans $10 to $11 a bushel.
“Corn price is improving as supplies are shaping up to be tight this year,” Riley said. “Soybean price has improved in the short term due to higher exports. Rice has followed other grains higher, and cotton is surging due to improved global demand.”