Late planting changes everything in the South

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A few people in Mississippi who were either very brave or very lucky were able to get corn planted about the usual time this year. Many of them have been disappointed with stands that have required replanting or spot planting, but there are a few fields around the area that look as good as they might have in a “normal” year, whatever that is.

I actually thought that corn planting was finished, but I’ve had two calls today about that subject.  hese later plantings should still be fine, but it just seems strange that we are planting corn this late. It will be interesting to see how these various plantings influence harvest dates, but we know corn is driven by heat units (DD50). My guess is that there will still be less than 3 weeks difference in harvest dates among most of the corn that has been planted this year, with another week thrown in to cover the few very early and very late plantings.

Weather changes lots of things connected with crops. I was able to see a good example of this a few days ago when I was called to look at a field where insects had really made a mess of what had been a good stand of corn. At first, we were a little perplexed about what might have happened, given the severity of the damage. I had never seen a situation in which almost every plant in a field had been damaged by insects, but here it was.

The corn plants had about four leaves, and showed symptoms that could have been typical for herbicide injury, nutrient deficiency, or insects. The rows of holes in the leaves that are commonly associated with stinkbug injury were present, and there was root feeding that could have been blamed on sugarcane beetle, but none of these things were the cause. The culprit turned out to be southern corn rootworm. However, there were no rootworms in this field since most of them had matured into adult beetles and flown. This is the same beetle we refer to as the twelve-spotted cucumber beetle, but we usually forget that it is the adult stage of the southern corn rootworm.

The sugarcane beetle that has been the most common early season insect in our corn fields in recent years was also present, but at such a low level as to be insignificant. This example shows how differences in environment can influence the way pests develop. The same principle can be applied to many other pest management situations as well as affecting growth, soil reactions, and ultimately yields of all crops. All of the effects may not be negative since cooler weather can actually boost yields in some cases, especially for corn and soybeans.

Plantings of soybeans and cotton, also coming later than usual, can also be expected to have different issues with regard to pests, diseases, moisture, and fertility. The later spring we have experienced this year may also signal the possibility for an early fall, but that cannot be predicted well enough to say for sure, at least not yet. If I were a betting man (as some might say), I would bet that this autumn will arrive a little earlier than usual this year, probably not early enough to cause a big problem for harvesting, but enough to cause us to need a coat before it’s done.

Our climate is changing, as we have been being told for the last few years, but the alarmist prognosticators who warned of rising sea levels and extinction of the polar bear will be surprised by the shorter summers and colder winters we may see within the next few years.

Agriculture and climate are like Extension work, never boring. If you happen not to like what is happen today, just hold on and it will change.


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