Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” While inclement weather may not keep postal carriers from making their daily deliveries, a little too much rain or wind can wreak havoc on farmers' plans to catch up on field work.

Anxious to get back into their fields, Delta growers have helplessly watched as inch after inch of rain turned their planter-ready fields into soggy mud holes. Charlie Heinsz of Shelby, Miss., is one of those growers who saw 17 inches of rain fall on his farm in less than two weeks.

“We got our first rain of the month on May 6 and the most recent rain May 17. Luckily, we missed the storms that passed through the area May 20, and today I even saw the sun trying to peak through the clouds,” he says. Now, he's hoping his recent lucky streak will continue long enough to get 300 acres of soybeans planted, and another 300 acres of soybeans replanted. Heinsz must also figure out what to do with the many acres of corn that were destroyed by flood waters.

Before things dry out enough to get a planter back in the field, Heinsz is hoping he'll get the chance to pull the rice levees he marked weeks ago. “I had all of our levees marked and ready to pull about three weeks ago before all of the rain started falling, but today those fields are still completely flat. The rice looks good, though.”

A few miles down the road in Cleveland, Miss., Buddy Rocconi says recent rains have halted all field work on his rice and soybean farm. “I'm still lacking about 200 acres of soybeans and 200 acres of rice being planted. I've also got a few spots that may need to be replanted, and I've got some new ruts to knock down,” he says.

Several inches of rain per week for several weeks in a row, made worse by another soaking rain May 20, have left Rocconi's fields too water-logged to do any field work. The rains, however, have fueled the growth of weeds and grasses in his fields.

“We sprayed glyphosate on our Roundup Ready soybeans earlier this year than we usually do trying to let the beans get a good running start. We haven't put anything else out but that one shot of glyphosate though, and now we've got grasses coming in,” he says. “We're also about a week to 10 days behind with our rice crop. If we don't get our remaining rice acres planted either this week or the first of next week, we'll plant soybeans on those acres.”

“I thought we were ahead of the game before this last set of rains came through, especially since we had to invest so much additional time in field work this spring. If we didn't have to work the ruts out of our fields that were caused by the wet 2002 harvest, we probably would have been 100 percent planted before the rains hit,” Rocconi says.

Further south, Danny Muzzi, a soybean grower in Shaw, Miss., says he's only received about 3 inches of rain on his place. “We're back in the field trying to kill some pretty tall grass and nutsedge that came up with the recent flush of rainfall. But because I've got Roundup Ready soybeans, all I'm doing is putting out a quart of glyphosate by ground, mixed with a product to limit drift potential,” he says.

According to Tommy Baird, Extension Agent in Indianola, Miss., rainfall amounts for the month of May generally increase as you head north through the Delta. Throughout the Delta, he says, very little spraying has been done due both to rainfall and frequent wind gusts in excess of 10 miles per hour.

Even in those areas with limited rainfall, Baird says, soil drying conditions have been very slow with day after day of cooler than normal temperatures combined with damp, cloudy weather conditions. “It's been very rare to hear a plane fly overhead, because wind conditions have not been favorable to aerial pesticide applications, or even ground spraying in many cases,” he says.

The variability in recent weather conditions may benefit soybean growers. Bubba Bailey, a field representative for Sanders Seed in Shaw, Miss., says that although soybean growers faced with a possible replant situation may not be able to find their first choice in variety, there should be adequate seed availability.

“Soybean seed may not be as scarce as some have feared. The rainfall has been spotty with many more north Delta growers than south Delta growers needing to replant because of washed out conditions. As a result, seed will be moved around by suppliers to those areas most in need of additional soybean seed,” he says.


e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com.