Cooler Weather May Have Hurt Crops

Temperatures in the upper 40s at night and a north wind took a toll on young crops in the Mississippi Delta during May, especially on cotton.

The National Weather Service said May temperatures ranged from 5 to 9 degrees below normal. The Gulf Coast was comparably colder and drier than the rest of the state during the month.

Charles Snipes, a cotton scientist at Mississippi State University's Extension Service in Stoneville, said besides the cold making the plants more susceptible to damage from insects, farmers in the North Delta have been unable to plant all their cotton because of wet weather.

"Cotton has to accumulate a certain number of heat units to grow,'' Snipes said. "It needs hot days and warm nights, and when it's cold and cotton can't grow actively, low thresholds of thrips (an insect) create more injury than they do under normal conditions.''

The weather has also hampered soybean growth.

"Soybeans stopped growing for a little while, either from dry weather or cool temperatures, and growers were concerned about thrips damage,'' said MSU's Alan Blaine. "It takes tremendous thrips pressure to justify treatment on soybeans, and we haven't run into any fields yet that needed treatment.''

To soybean farmers, dry weather was a bigger concern through May than was cold weather. Blaine said fields south of U.S. 82 really needed moisture at the end of the month.

Erick Larson, an Extension Service grain crop analyst, said the cool weather didn't hurt the corn crop, but caused a condition on the leaves known as sunscald that shouldn't affect yield.

"It's a silvering of the leaves that occurs in irregular blotches on young leaf tissue on the side exposed to the sun,'' Larson said. "It's purely cosmetic and caused by cool, clear night conditions and bright, sunny mornings.''

Larson said dry conditions hurt corn, especially in the southern part of the state. Cool weather has helped the plants tolerate the drought better, but north of Mississippi 8, saturated conditions in low-lying fields have stunted corn and kept farmers from applying needed nitrogen fertilizer.

Most dairies in South Mississippi, where the majority of the state's dairy industry is located, have not had any significant rain since April 6.

"That's about the time a lot of our producers plant corn for silage. Our crops are suffering just like the row crops in the Delta without irrigation,'' said Wesley Farmer, Extension dairy specialist. "We've lost the early production of summer perennial grass. It's going to cut into our hay production and grazing.''

Farmer said the cool weather was good for the dairy cows.

"That little cool snap was wonderful, but without the rain to grow crops, it was a short benefit,'' Farmer said.

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