Area corn growers hold off on planting

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

Last week’s forecast for a record corn crop by the U.S. Department of Agriculture may not hold up in Northeast Mississippi.
Across the region, row crop planters have struggled with a particularly wet spring and say they may miss the window for planting corn if the weather does not soon cooperate.
Jeff McCord, owner and operator of C&M Farm in Belden, said he ideally would have his full corn crop planted by April 25 but is at least two weeks out from being able to get started. Corn is typically more productive if planted early, rather than later in the growing season, according to Mississippi State University agronomy agent Charlie Stokes. Severe heat and drought can adversely affect corn pollination.
Stokes said hot, dry conditions are usually seen in July and August, although “if you have a late crop but you still get rain, it won’t hurt at all.”
But, when planting begins depends on the weather. Stokes said one inch of rain delays planting for five to seven days, and that due to so much rain this spring, “we’re getting behind every day.”
Others say that in addition to the rain, temperatures have been a problem.
“Right now it is wet, but it is also cold,” McCord said.
In addition to drier conditions, the ground temperature needs to be consistently around 55 degrees to plant corn, and closer to 65 to plant soy, he added.
McCord is one of many farmers that has changed his planting patterns in the past decade in response to rising grain prices.
“Up until 2004, I was 100 percent cotton,” he said. The last year he planted any cotton at all was in 2006.
McCord started planting corn due to a combination of falling cotton prices and rising grain prices. Now he plants primarily corn and soybeans.
McCord said if the corn acreage analysts have predicted does not get planted in the South, corn prices will remain high or level off. On the other hand, he warned, it could drive soybean prices down if more farmers miss the chance to plant corn and have to make the last-minute switch to soybeans.
The USDA predicted Mississippi would produce 1.05 million acres of corn in 2013, up 28 percent from 820,000 acres in 2012. The total national corn crop is anticipated to exceed 97.2 million acres. The impact of corn prices as affected by supply will almost certainly be felt by consumers. Corn byproducts are used in many consumer goods and are the primary grain in livestock feed.
Stokes said he hopes to see producers plant cotton and not just soybeans if corn is not viable. The USDA is predicting a 19 percent drop in cotton production in 2013 based on the current survey.
Both cotton and soybeans are heartier crops that can better withstand hot, dry Mississippi summers.