Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor finally showed that portions of Dunklin, Pemiscot, New Madrid, Stoddard and Mississippi Counties were in the severe drought category. I have been surprised that we hadn?t received that classification earlier. I suspect that the sudden change might have been due to the efforts of our state extension climatologist, Pat Guinan. He had contacted our regional specialists and indicated that he was surprised that we were still listed as moderate drought due to the lack of rainfall that he had noted. He asked us about crop impacts, community burn orders, and several other questions. Once he got our assessments, he forwarded them to the drought monitor team. The Drought Monitor can be found at http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/DM_midwest.... If you click on the State of Missouri, you can get the more detailed county information. You can see that the vast majority of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois have plenty of moisture.
I have mentioned during this season that there were vast differences within the State of Missouri and that the Bradford Research Farm near Columbia had excessive moisture during the two visits that I made in July. We couldn?t get a rain and they had poor stands and other problems due to wet field conditions.
The Missouri Crop Condition and Progress Report for the week ending, September 12, shows how our crops are faring compared with the rest of the state. The temperature effect has resulted in all of our crops being early. Seventy-nine percent of the cotton has bolls opening which is 33 days ahead of last year and 15 days ahead of normal. Defoliation began a few weeks ago and cotton harvest has begun. When I was in the Senath area on Monday, I saw a few fields that had been harvested and many more that had been defoliated.
Rice is at 41 percent harvested which compares which is 22 days ahead of last year and 13 days ahead of normal. We had good conditions during planting and most of the crop was planted earlier or at least on schedule.
Seventy-four percent of our corn has been harvested which compares with the state average of 23 percent. At this time last year, we only had 32 percent harvested in the SE region. The Southwest region also has about 62 percent of the crop harvested.
I have had a few questions about the presence of aflatoxin in corn this year. This is a toxin produced by several species of Aspergillus fungi. The significance of these toxins is that the USDA restricts the amount that can be fed to livestock and humans. The fungi develop under hot, dry conditions. While irrigation helps keep the plants from being so stressed, it also provides excellent moisture and humidity to promote the fungal growth. Growers have often had to take the grain to several buyers before they could find someone to accept the grain.
The key is to get the corn dried as soon as possible. If the grain stays in the combine or on the truck overnight, the fungi can produce additional toxins. Once the grain gets down to about 16-17 percent, it can be kept in a bin overwinter. So the key is to reduce insect damage, keep the grain at low moisture content, and aerate it to cool it down. If the corn is moldy, it can be cleaned to get out the broken pieces and to reduce the amount of spores.
Soybean harvest has begun in our region but not in the northern areas of the state. We have a mixed crop situation for soybeans. The irrigated soybeans actually look pretty good. However, the non-irrigated beans and the soybeans double-cropped behind wheat don?t look so good. We had poor moisture at planting and we didn?t have enough moisture to get the crop growing normally. If the late beans were irrigated, they did much better. Because it has been so dry in the U.S. this year, there has not been much of the Asian Soybean to develop. The hot, dry conditions have prevented it from developing.
For our cotton crop, we normally will have 2150-2300 heat units to mature our cotton by September 21. On September 1, we had already accumulated 2446 heat units. By September 7, we were at 2529. If we look at the heat units on September 1, we have not had more than 2056 on that date for the past seven years. The least amount that we had during this time frame was 1673 in 2008. So we have almost unprecedented amounts of heat units this year and we still have a few weeks to go to mature the last harvestable bolls.
As a result of these high temperatures, we can expect some really high yields in some of the irrigated cotton. It is probable that we will have cotton in the 3 plus bales per acre range. Some of the poor cotton on non-irrigated ground will yield in the 250 pounds per acre range. I have seen a few fields of non-irrigated cotton that received some timely ranges that will be above 2 bales per acre. It?s the cotton that is in between that we won?t be sure of until harvest.
Producers have an opportunity this week with little rain expected to get a lot of crops harvested. As a result of the drought, The USDA Cotton and Wool Outlook dated September 13 projects that our cotton yield will be about 966 pound per acre. Last month it was pegged at 983.
University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all.
Dr. Michael R. Milam is an agronomy specialist and county program director with University of Missouri Extension in Dunklin County.