Region’s farmers use break in weather to plant

Northeast Mississippi farmers finally had a chance to get into the ground this week.

Growers across the region have been eagerly planting cotton and soybeans during a short break from rainy weather.

Jamie Rogers of Plantersville, for example, has managed to plant 200 acres of corn, but that’s less than half of the 450 acres he had planned.

According to the most recent Crop Progress and Condition Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 62 percent of the soil in Mississippi is wetter than ideal for this time of year. After record droughts affected much of the county last year, farmers were hoping for relief in the form of rain – just not this much.

Farmers in southern and western parts of the state managed to get corn planted before crop insurance deadlines hit. As of May 12, according to the USDA, Magnolia State farmers reported 91 percent of the projected acreage for corn planting was complete.

Northeast Mississippi farmers, however, say the lack of dry weather inhibited their ability to get much corn in the ground.

Rogers said most of his neighbors have some corn planted, but almost all have planted less than they originally hoped.

“We would probably go ahead and plant more if it wasn’t for the insurance deal,” he said.

Crop insurance typically does not cover crops planted a certain number of days after the deadline. The crop insurance deadline for planting corn was April 25. Mississippi State University agronomist Charlie Stokes said very few acres of corn were planted in the region.

Belden farmer Jeff McCord said he is not planting any of the corn he had planned this year. Instead, he will plant 2,500 acres of soybeans, “hopefully in a few days,” he said.

McCord said if rain forecast for the weekend will hold off, he may be able to plant on Monday or earlier.

Rogers also plans to make up for his smaller corn crop by planting more soybeans. He plans to put out 1,600 to 1,700 acres.

Cotton, however, is officially in the ground in Northeast Mississippi. Larry Croker, an Ellistown cotton farmer, said after weeks of waiting, he began planting on Wednesday.

The Coker family has been in the cotton business for several generations. Larry Coker said over the years, a lot has changed.

Cotton farmers no longer till soil and the previous year’s crop before planting. A chemical is sprayed during planting that helps dead cotton plants decompose.

The no-till practice, as it’s called, means farmers spend less time prepping fields and can begin planting earlier than they could a decade ago. Coker said getting into the field this far behind schedule and still having to till would have been a disaster.

Coker said for now, it’s just a waiting game. A hard, heavy rain could definitely cause a setback, but the no-till field improves his chances.

He hopes to be able to wrap up planting and put down a pre-emergent spray on Monday. “If the weather holds,” he said, “No problem.”

Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

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