Nervousness has not yet set in among Mississippi’s row crop growers but they nonetheless would welcome some dry days to get more planting done.
Continuation of the rainy days much past mid April could stir some concern, said John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Corn typically starts going in during early March. Frequent rain has helped to stall planting, but even more problematic has been the chilly temperatures, Riley said in an interview in early April.
“The cold weather has more to do with it than rain. You want the ground a little warmer. Rain has also wreaked havoc on everybody‘s schedule as well. They just can’t seem to find some dry days to get out there.”
An immediate downside to the delayed planting could be a lost opportunity to gain price premiums through delivering a corn crop ahead of Midwest growers, according to Riley.
“We might lose that competitive advantage,” he said, though he added the good news is that technological improvements have made it possible to have fields ready and planted in a short period.
“It use to take a few weeks where now can have it done in a few days,“ he said.
The MSU Extension Service said in a press statement that as of March 24, farmers had planted 37 percent of the state’s corn crop. But rains the last week of March slowed field work after that point, the Extension Service said.
Travis Satterfield, a Benoit row crop farmer, said it may not matter whether Mississippi’s growers get their corn to market early. A premium is possible, he said, but “right now the market is not telling us that. The supplies seem to be more adequate now than last year” when drought plagued farmers in the Midwest corn belt and beyond.
Most growers in the Delta have their land ready to plant “as soon as it gets dry,” said Satterfield, who noted in early April farmers need a 10-to-15 day dry spell.
“We’ve got adequate sub-soil moisture,” he added, conceding the understatement.
While last year set record prices for corn and soybeans, higher yields in Mississippi and elsewhere make a repeat of those prices unlikely, Riley and Satterfield say.
Prices at Mississippi elevators last year came in around $17.50 a bushel for soybeans and corn at just under $8 a bushel. Riley said futures markets are betting soybeans may get as high as $12 to $13 this year and corn could reach the “high $5s or low $6s.”
Profits could be whittled some by rising prices for fuel, fertilizer and machinery, Riley said.
Nonetheless, he added, “If everything goes as planned and Mother Nature cooperates, we’re probably looking at some very big soy bean and corn crops.”
The U.S. Agriculture Department’s March 28 prospective plantings report predicted the state’s corn acreage will reach 1.05 million, a 28 percent increase from the 820,000 acres planted in 2012. Soybean acreage — at 1.95 million acres — is predicted to remain largely unchanged and continue to account for the largest portion of Mississippi’s row crop acreage, the Agriculture Department report said.
The prospect of strong pricing and good yields and dryer weather may lead some Mississippi growers to switch from planned crops to later-planted soybeans, according to Trent Irby, Extension soybean specialist.
The increased acreage devoted to corn will come at the expense of cotton, which is predicted to drop by 43 to 270,000 acres.
The record success of last year’s corn crop is driving acreage decisions this year, MSU Extension Service corn and wheat specialist Erick Larson said.
Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist, attributed the drop in cotton acreage to an expectation of lower potential profits and pest management costs.
“The decrease to less than 300,000 acres is caused by potentially poor profits from cotton production compared to those of grain crops, as well as the challenges associated with cotton production,” Dodds said ion a press release. “The acres leaving cotton are going primarily to corn, but soybeans are expected to pick some up as well.”
Rice acreage is expected to fall slightly to 120,000 acres, down 8 percent from last year, according to the Ag Department forecast.
Sorghum is expected to drop 6 percent to 45,000 acres, and hay acres are anticipated to drop 5 percent to 710,000 acres. USDA predicts sweet potato acreage will dip 8 percent to 22,000 acres, but the crop will remain solidly in second place nationally behind North Carolina.
Meanwhile, winter wheat saw an 8 percent increase in acreage to 400,000 acres planted for a 2013 harvest, according to the Extension Service.