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Weather impacting Miss-Lou farmers

Farmer Ross McGehee pulls out the high cycle sprayer as a way to get ready for the growing season at a 700-acre field he partially owns with Mike Piazza, Daniel Gasquet and J.H. James. The recent rain has made farming difficult because the fields are inundated.  (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Farmer Ross McGehee pulls out the high cycle sprayer as a way to get ready for the growing season at a 700-acre field he partially owns with Mike Piazza, Daniel Gasquet and J.H. James. The recent rain has made farming difficult because the fields are inundated.
(Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — You might think there’s no way a farmer could run out of tasks to keep him busy — but you’d be wrong.

That was what Adams County farmer Ross McGehee, who grows soybeans, corn, wheat and sorgham on about 3,500 acres, had to say Tuesday.

“We (farmers) are all sick of this rain,” McGehee said. “So you move to doing other stuff. But there’s only so many times you can grease the same piece of machinery.”

The recent wet weather with recurring cold snaps is causing him and other Miss-Lou farmers to reevaluate planting plans.

And the local economy depends on agriculture. In Concordia Parish alone, row crop production of soybeans, corn, cotton, rice, wheat and grain sorghum make up 96 percent of the $116 million gross farm value, according to Extension Service data.

Kylie Miller, Concordia Parish extension agent, said area farmers are lucky that they have not planted most of their crops yet.

“The only crop in the field right now is winter wheat,” Miller said.

But early to mid-April is the best time to plant crops such as soybeans, so parish farmers are watching the weather closely until then.

McGehee said the soggy weather is making him reevaluate his planting plans.

“We’d be planting corn by now, but we’re going to be a couple of weeks behind,” he said.

Cold weather could be hurting the state’s wheat crop, LSU AgCenter wheat specialist Josh Lofton.

The amount of damage to that crop might not be known until the end of this week.

“Recent colder conditions have all but stopped growth,” Lofton said.

In addition, heavy rains followed by humid days makes the fields ripe for diseases like stripe rust.

The Extension Service advises wheat farmers to cut into a few of their most advanced plants. Farmers are looking for the discolored, wilting tissue that is a major sign of damage.

The last two weeks of February and the first few days of March were exceptionally wet, so farmers turned their attention to other tasks.

“Most farm and ranch work was geared toward preparing for planting in the spring and caring for livestock,” according to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It’s been too cool and rainy to do much else.”

“Tell folks to pray for dry weather,” McGehee said.

 

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