MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — “Pretty” is a useful adjective for describing a girlfriend or a Mississippi sunset, but this year’s corn fields are producing similar admiration from crop watchers dreaming of a second year of record yields.

“The corn is as pretty as you’d want to see it,” said Dennis Reginneli, area agronomic crops agent for Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. “Growers got it planted early, it’s been catching rains just about every week, and the little bit of common rust has been too light to treat. We had a good crop last year, but this crop looks as good as we’ve seen in years.”

Reginneli, who is based in Noxubee County, said the mild temperatures, humidity and rains allowed some common rust to develop earlier in the season, but recent higher temperatures are keeping it under control. Corn borer counts also have stayed low enough to spare farmers from added worries. He said growers need to keep watching for rust and future generations of corn borers.

“We’re excited that this corn is so much earlier than in past years, and it is growing so much quicker,” Reginelli said. “We finished planting this year before we started planting in some areas last year. Growers are learning that fall tillage really puts them in position to get the crop planted much earlier.”

In 2003, Mississippi growers averaged a record 135 bushels per acre, compared to 125 and 130 bushels the previous two years. Early-season estimates this year predicted Mississippi growers would plant 450,000 acres of corn, down 18 percent from 2003.

Erick Larson, grain crops specialist, said the crop looks as good as or better than last year, but fields still have a long way to go.

“Moisture will be critical from now through about the third week of July,” Larson said. “Growers also will have to watch around the end of June for the second generation of corn borers. That generation normally demands more attention because grain filling is occurring and populations may escalate rapidly. Most of the inputs (fertilizer and herbicides) are completed, and growers now just have to control corn borers and irrigation.”

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.