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April 19, 2024

Harvest Season in Full Swing

Non-storm-damaged Delta area crops progressing nicely

By MARK H. STOWERS

The Bolivar Bullet

Harvest season across the Delta is underway. The Port of Rosedale crew has been getting ready for farmers. Executive Director Robert Maxwell offered an update. 

“The biggest thing is making sure we time our preparations the best we can to help as many customers as possible,” said Maxwell. “We had issues with one of our (truck to barge) load out belts, so we’re down to two belts. The one that is down was our slowest and our backup belt.”

There are  plans to repair the third belt. It won’t be ready for this harvest season, but hopefully by next year’s. 

“Having two load out belts is still one more than most folks have,” said Maxwell. “Most elevators have one load out belt but we have two that are functioning. We’ve gotten some grant money for that from MDOT, $796,000 through their multi modal program will get the third belt back up and running. We haven’t received the notice to proceed yet. Once we do, we’ll advertise for bids and then it will be a six-month process for completion.”

Maxwell has also been keeping a close eye on the water levels at the port. 

“It’s about 10.5 feet at the Arkansas City Gauge (August 14). We start having issues when it gets down to three feet,” said Maxwell.  “Ideally, we’d love to be more than five or six, but we can still function at three feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been at the port doing their annual maintenance dredging. They came up with some additional money in their budget this year so we’re getting a really good clean out this year.”

The high end of water level where things get tough is above 40 to 45. 

“Right now, we are ok and it’s forecast to come back up and go down and come back up and go down. That’s what it does,” he said. 

Each dock was surveyed due to the Corp not working up close to docks for liability reasons. There could be more money coming if the list of needs that Cindy Hyde-Smith put before Congress is met. There is a better than average chance the monies could come through, but it would be near the end of the year. 

“All it is right now is a wish list. I’d rather wait and know the check is in the mail,” he said. 

If the monies do come through, it would revitalize the railroad track to Metcalfe that would connect the port to C&G and then to Greenwood. Corn has begun coming to the port and Maxwell knows the succession of harvest will be in full force.

Mississippi State Extension row crop experts crop shared their thoughts on how harvest will progress across the Delta. 

Corn

Dr. Erick Larson, extension corn specialist noted despite the ten day severe hail and storm damage earlier in the summer,  overall corn is coming to fruition.

“A lot of harvest is proceeding at the moment. It’s looking really good,” said Larson. “We’re expecting good yields this year. The storm caused tremendous damage. It was the most extensive hail damage I’ve ever encountered in my twenty-eight year career in Mississippi. It occurred across a wide geographic area and the bad thing was that corn was near tasseling when all the leaves are exposed and its extremely vulnerable to stress. It was the worst possible time to have damage on a corn crop.”

The damage estimate is mostly impossible to put a number on according to Larson. The bulk of the damage was in Bolivar County and northern Sunflower County. He noted there were an estimated 720,000 acres of corn planted which is  up twenty-four percent over last year’s acreage. 

Soybeans

Soybean acreage has been projected at 2.27 million for this year, but more acres were actually planted – 2.3 million. But, the yield projection is a tough question for Dr. Trent Irby, Mississippi State Extension Soybean Specialist. 

“That yield question is a moving target. During mid-July I would have estimated a fairly significant increase for our record yield for the state,” said Irby. “But, the heat may make an impact on overall yield and certainly the lack of moisture on some non-irrigated acres here lately will hurt to some degree. With all of that said though, our previous yield record is 54 bushels per acre as a state, including both irrigated and non-irrigated acres, and this value was tied during 2022. I don’t expect at this time to be below that, so I’m hopeful we may still have a small increase in the state average from last year which would also end up as a new state record if we can go above that 54 bushel per acre mark.”

Soybeans were affected by the storm as well.

“There were certainly a fair number of acres impacted by storms this year,” said Irby. “There will be yield loss for sure across some of those acres compared to what the yield potential would have been otherwise. But it’s still too early to say for sure what that impact will be overall.”

Cotton

Though not nearly the King Crop it used to be, Dr. Brian Pieralisi, Mississippi State Extension Cotton Specialist has seen an uptick in planted acres.

“The intended acres was 400,000 and the actual acres turned out to be 380,000,” said Pieralisi. “Cotton is nearing the finish line in most of the state, with most cotton ranging about 0-2 nodes above white flower. Cotton at this growth state is past the threat of economic injury from insects. There is some cotton that was delayed from wet weather, mainly portions of east Mississippi, which will need more time to reach maturity. Also, there are some unusually dry cotton acres in south/ southwestern Mississippi. Outside of the extremely wet or dry areas, the crop looks promising, with some impressive yield potential.”

The storms affected cotton with farmers replanting other crops.

“The storm reduced cotton acreage,” he said. “I am aware of some acres that were planted to either soybean or corn. Depending on when it was reported it could have influenced the latest acreage report.”

Rice

Dr. Hunter Bowman, Mississippi State Extension Rice Specialist, has seen a rise in rice acres this year.

“The USDA has us projected at 100,000, but we are more realistically at around 120,000,”  said Bowman.  “It’s hard to predict yield. Temperatures have been extremely high during the pollination and grain fill stages of the rice crop this year. Hopefully, those temperatures will not have too much of a negative impact on the yield. Everything I have looked at so far this year looks promising and I believe we will have strong yields.”

Rice farmers dodged the storm damage for the most part according to Bowman.

“The hailstorms from the summer were not as detrimental to Rice, because of the physiology of the plant,” he said. “Rice has a much narrower leaf than our other crops in the delta. Also, is most often grown in a flood which helps to hold the plant up in high winds.”

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