Low rains affect some local crops

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 31, 1999

At the start of the growing season, Bubba Davidson – along with other Miss-Lou farmers – had faith that good rainfall would boost crop yields above levels seen after last year’s drought. He was half right. Due to good rains in late spring and early summer, the 120 acres of corn he harvested yielded 135 bushels per acre – not as much as expected, but good. But he expects lower rains the area received in late July and August to hurt his soybeans.

&uot;We don’t really know how much it hurt beans yet,&uot;&160;said Davidson, who has 4,500 acres of soybeans and plans to start harvesting Tuesday. &uot;But we’ve lost a lot of pods off the plants, … and in some places the ground is so dry it’s cracked.&uot;

Only 0.72 inches of rain fell in Natchez in August, a month that usually averages 3.71 inches of rain. Compare that with June, which saw 5.52 inches of rain, and July, which got 3.53 inches of rain. Those months’ usual averages are 3.86 inches and 4.12 inches, respectively.

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Glen Daniels, Concordia Parish’s county agent, said crops that have been harvested already have close-to-average yields. And he is cautiously optimistic about the yield of the crops yet to be harvested – even though the prices paid for those crops are falling across the board.

&uot;We lucked out because our corn was produced before the drought and our soil can stand dry weather, so the row crops are holding their own,&uot;&160;Adams County Agent Don Smith said.

Still, Smith does not want to give average yield numbers until the harvest is complete.

Some crops, most notably cotton and soybeans, have weakened due to a sudden lack of rain, said experts with the Cooperative Extension Service at Mississippi State University.

&uot;In the first summer months, our soybean crop looked too good to be true, but as mid-July approached, their condition reversed,&uot;&160;said Alan Blaine, extension soybean specialist.

&uot;The soybean plant tends to shut down in extremely dry weather, (and) this summer’s high temperatures and … lack of moisture has dealt this crop a tremendous blow.&uot;

As far as specific crops are concerned:

n Most of Concordia’s corn has been harvested, and the average yield of 90 to 95 bushels per acre is just above average, Daniels said. In Adams County, Smith said, farmers are through producing corn. The crop is in fair condition, but yields will probably be below average.

n Only 10 percent of Concordia’s soybeans have been harvested. The rest need two or three days of rain in the next two weeks to produce average yields, Daniels said. In Adams County, some harvests will start in September, Smith said.

n Daniels believes northeast Louisiana’s boll weevil program has helped cotton quality, but neither he nor Smith is making yield predictions. &uot;It’s looking good at this time, but it depends on how long the (low rain) situation lasts,&uot;&160;Smith said.

n In Concordia Parish, farmers are starting to harvest rice and have harvested 60 to 70 percent of milo. Milo is averaging about 100 bushels per acre, which is a good yield, Daniels said.

n Grazing pastures could be affected and hay production could be reduced up to 40 percent by dry weather. And if the dry weather continues, farmers could have to feed their cattle hay as early as this month instead of after the first frost, usually in November, Smith said.