This has been an unusual year and the weather continues to have an impact. According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending May 8, planting of all crops was almost nonexistent for last week. In the Southeast Region, only .1 days was available for fieldwork with the state average of 3.4 percent.
Corn planting in the state is at 59 percent with only 43 percent in our region. At this time last year, the SE region had planted all of its corn. The Northwest region has planted 78 percent of its corn. The North Central and West Central regions were at 68 percent.
Cotton planting is at about 2 percent planted. This is 23 days behind 2010 and 21 days behind normal.
The big story in Southeast Missouri is the flooded farmland. It was estimated that we had at one time about 600,000 acres. With excess rainfall, there were problems with the Black, St. Francis, and Mississippi Rivers. The Little River Ditches were full and overflowed onto low lying areas.
As bad as things have been, we have been in Dunklin County, we have been very fortunate. We only have a small number of homeowners that have had to leave their homes. While the number of acres flooded in Dunklin County has been estimated at 40-50 thousand acres, we have fared much better than surrounding counties of Butler, Stoddard, Pemiscot, and New Madrid, and Mississippi Counties.
When the Corp of Engineers blew the Mississippi River levees near Birds Point, Missouri on May 2, about 133,000 acres were flooded. This is the second time that this spillway has been activated. The first was in January of 1937.
I just reviewed the Cotton and Wool Outlook for April 11 published by the USDA?s Economic Research Service. This report can be found online at http://www.cottonusa.org/files/economicD....
Several findings were very interesting. While China will use about 3 million bales less for the 2010/11 period, it will still account for 40 percent of the global production. In addition, only 3 percent of the U.S. crop will go to our domestic mills, we had 6 percent mill use in 2003/4.
The most important surprise is that the planting intentions for 2011 show Missouri?s expected acreage to be about 360,000 acres which is a 16 percent increase over last year. While this projection was made prior to the rains and flooding it is not impossible for this to occur.
For example, let?s look at the 2008 season. We were late getting the cotton planted and we did not end with the number of heat units that we thought that we would need to mature the crop. The April 27th date showed 5 percent planted; May 4th, 19 percent; May 11th, 53 percent; May 18th, 78 percent; and
May 25th was described as planting was virtually complete and 7 days ahead of normal. So how did that work out? The yield was a record 1106 pounds per acre.
So what has happened to date with the rain and flooding really is not as important as what happens the rest of the season. The probability for success depends more on the climatic conditions for the rest of the season. We have the capacity to get all of our crops planted in a hurry. With 12 row equipment and larger tractors, producers can get their crop planted in a faster period of time. We have higher yielding varieties and the growth regulators to keep reduce the height of the cotton and help to mature it faster.
This will also be a good year to stay on top of plant mapping to make sure that input decisions are made in a timely fashion. Insect management will be very important in a shorter growing season. While I was out earlier this week to check on planting, I saw something that I hadn?t seen in a few weeks. That was dust. Even after all of the rain, the surface had dried enough for dust to be produced.
I suspect that producers will plant cotton later than they normally do because of the higher price and because even with a reduced yield cotton can be more attractive than alternate crops. With the absence of the boll weevil, producers consistently harvest a top crop which makes a later planting date possible. Date of planting studies suggest that the first week of May to be the ideal time to plant. However, in some years the last planting date in May also produced very high yields.
Producers are often compared with gamblers. When they plant, they have no assurance that they will have a good crop. It all depends on the season that they end up with. While good management is certainly very important, in the good years all producers will have a good crop. In bad years, even the best producers will struggle. Challenges such as palmer pigweed will affect all producers. Some will handle the challenge better than others.
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Dr. Michael R. Milam is an agronomy specialist and county program director with University of Missouri Extension in Dunklin County.