“Last fall’s harvest is going to haunt this year’s planting because of the expense,” said Mitchell Hood, a farmer in Itawamba County’s Ozark community. “It starts snowballing.”
Northeast Mississippi received record rains in October, which is prime harvest time for row crop farmers. Some areas in the region received the most rain recorded there in the past 100 years, according to numbers from the Southern Regional Climate Center.
The wet weather caused considerable damage to many crops, especially sweet potatoes. Row crop farmers tried to salvage what they could, but because the ground was saturated, the heavy equipment created deep ruts in the fields.
The rainy weather continues to be a problem for planters this spring, but producers are doing what they can to get ready for the season.
Farmers like Hood and Brian Johnson of Mantachie are preparing their fields and are taking extra steps because of last year’s ruts.
Hood usually practices no-till farming, but because of the ruts, he has to break the ground up with a tractor, which uses about 100 gallons of fuel per day. It has to be done, Hood said, but the expense doesn’t make him happy.
“All farmers are alike,” he said. “We want to put the least amount of money in a crop and produce a good crop.”
Record soybean plantings
Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the two biggest crops this year will be soybeans and corn. In its annual prospective plantings report released March 31, the department said U.S. farmers intend to plant a record 78.1 million acres of soybeans, up 1 percent from last year’s previous record.
Corn acreage is expected to increase 3 percent to 88.8 million acres. If realized, this would be the second-largest corn acreage since 1947, behind 2007, the USDA said.
Cotton acreage also is forecasted to increase 15 percent from last year to total 10.5 million acres.
Overall, farmers are expected to plant 319.5 million acres of staple crops this year, which is steady from 2009, when it fell 5.7 million acres.
In Northeast Mississippi, farmers are favoring soybeans this year.
“Corn prices are not where they need to be to increase their corn acreage,” said Stanley Wise, director of the Mississippi State University Extension office in Union County. “We’ll have some if the weather permits because growers are planting in rotations. ... Most of our acreage is going to be soybeans.”
Wise’s summation of Union County planting intentions run true for farmers in Itawamba, as well. Johnson said he’ll plant about 90 percent of his 1,700 acres with beans. The other 10 percent will go to corn.
Hood is eyeing a similar crop mix for his 1,200 acres in the Ozark community, but he’s also keeping an open mind about cotton. He has the equipment, and he’d like to plant some, if the price will justify the crop. If it does, he may plant some next month.
In Blue Springs, farmer Larry Coker is bucking the trend. He’s planting all of his 800 acres in cotton.
“My brother and I are getting closer to retirement and we’re not willing to change,” he said with a laugh.
He added that he has all of the equipment and a crop change to corn or beans would mean a large capital investment from him.
He also added that his field work is on time, despite the weather.
“It really hasn’t bothered us,” Coker said.
He expects to start planting cotton May 1.
Soybeans will start getting planted around April 20, giving the fields a little time to dry out. If it dries out before then, Johnson said he hopes to get his corn planted. But if it’s too wet, his corn acreage will go to beans.
The key, Hood said, is that the fields get planted.
“We’ve got to feed our family,” he said. “We’ve got to make a crop. We’ve got to put seed in the ground and hope for the best. You do everything in your power to make a good crop but it all comes from above.”
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or email@example.com.