Cold, wet winter delays Louisiana corn planting

3/22/2014 8:45 AM
By Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The cold, wet winter has delayed corn planting in Louisiana, where it has become one of the biggest crops.

The LSU AgCenter's 2013 figures aren't yet in, but corn was the state's No. 2 crop in 2012, bringing farmers $602.5 million, all but $2 million of that for feed corn rather than fresh corn. That compares to $700 million for soybeans, $586 million for sugarcane and $371.4 million for rice.

Dan Fromme, the LSU AgCenter's corn specialist, said Louisiana farmers planted nearly 700,000 acres of corn last year.

"Due to the wet, cold winter we've had, only about 5 or 10 percent of the corn acres are planted right now," he said. "Last year, 70 or 80 percent of the acres were planted by now."

Charles J. Cannatella, secretary-treasurer of the Louisiana Soybean and Grain Research and Promotion Board said, "Normally in the middle of March, we're trying to get planted and get through."

The Melville resident says he planned his usual 700 to 800 acres in corn but hasn't been able to start because the ground is too cold and rain has kept the fields too wet to work.

A friend who had planned to plant 2,500 acres "told me this morning that if it rains this weekend, he's going to cut back to about half of that," Cannatella said Thursday.

The soil needs to warm up to 55 degrees for corn to germinate, and it's often that warm in early March, he said. "I checked this morning; it's still about 53 degrees. It looks like we're about two weeks behind." JJ

The weather hasn't all been chilly but many warm days were overcast, Cannatella said. "The week before last, the sun didn't shine for nine days," he said, so despite temperatures in the 50s and 60s, the ground just didn't warm up.

North Louisiana usually dries out earlier than central and southern parts of the state, and have usually completed planting by March 20, but many haven't been able to start, Cannatella added.

Farmers nationwide already were planning to cut back corn planting because prices, which rose as high as $7 a bushel after the drought in 2012, fell as low as $4.50 after a bumper crop last year, said Kurt M. Guidry, an economist at the LSU AgCenter.

There's no good estimate yet for this year's expectations. Surveys have varied widely and USDA planting projections for corn aren't yet out, Guidry said.

AgCenter research indicates there's still time to plant, Fromme said. "We've still got until about April 7, April 10 until yields begin to fall."

All the rain hurts weed control, too. "That also provides a buffet for the cutworms," he said. Cutworms are moth larvae that live underground, eating roots.

If nothing grows in a field for 4 to 6 weeks, Fromme said, cutworms die.

"You want to break the bridge between green matter. That way, the cutworms won't have anything to feed on."


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10/26/2014 | Last Updated: 5:45 PM