MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — Mississippi corn growers may see a fourth consecutive year of record or near-record yields after spring weather conditions allowed them to plant early or on time for a change.

If they succeed in producing another record, they should have an added benefit of stronger prices expected during an August harvest. December corn futures prices are running near $3.20 per bushel, compared to $2.40 at this time last year.

Erick Larson, small grain crops specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said early plantings should enhance the yield potential, especially in nonirrigated fields.

“The corn should mature earlier during the summer, which means the temperatures should be lower during the reproductive periods,” Larson said. “We also usually have more moisture stored in the soil and a higher likelihood of rainfall earlier in the summer, both of which will help the crop’s yield potential.”

In 2003, Mississippi growers averaged a record 135 bushels per acre, compared to 125 and 130 bushels the previous two years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s prospective plantings report released March 31 predicted Mississippi growers will decrease their acreage to 450,000, down 18 percent.

“We expected considerably less acreage than last year, but the corn markets picked up as we entered the planting season and the weather has been very cooperative,” Larson said. “Growers have had every opportunity to plant corn, and have been changing their minds during the planting season in favor of more corn.”

Jerry Singleton, Extension area agronomic crops agent in Leflore County, Miss., said most growers thought they were finished planting corn in the middle of March.

“Then, the market improved and inspired some growers to plant some more corn,” Singleton said. “The Easter rains will move growers on to other crops such as milo, soybeans, rice and cotton.”

Singleton anticipates an earlier-than-normal soybean harvest, possibly even by the end of July. Soybean and corn growers should be able to take advantage of higher August prices.

“We are hoping there will be enough combines available to harvest all the early soybean and corn fields in August,” he said. “In turn, the elevators may be overwhelmed with corn and beans into early September.”

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.