Corn, Wheat, Feed Grains
- Corn acreage in the state continues to climb as more and more demand for ethanol is felt.
- There are more than 2000 farms that grow corn in Mississippi
- Wheat is used as a double crop in Mississippi – usually with soybeans
- Corn and grain sorghum are the crops of choice for animal feed and ethanol production
Wheat is the primary small grain grown throughout Mississippi.
Mississippi growers have grown about 694,000 acres of corn and produced 131 bushels per acre or 91 million bushels over the last five years. In fact, corn yields have more than doubled in the past 20 years and are increasing faster than any other crop grown in Mississippi.
Corn acreage should be sustained in Mississippi due to many significant agronomic benefits it produces in rotation systems and advantages of the regional corn market.
Corn grown in crop rotation significantly increases productivity of all crops in the long run. Reports consistently indicate 10-25 percent yield advantages for cotton or soybeans grown in rotation with corn on Mississippi farms.
Crop rotations normally improve yields because many weed, insect, nematode and disease problems build up when using the same management program every year in continuous cropping. Crop rotation systems effectively disrupt many of these cumulative effects, preventing problems and reducing input costs.
Crop rotation allows the producer to attack the predominant weed problems by altering tillage systems, changing herbicide chemistry, and disrupting weed life cycles.
Corn rotations can also improve soil physical structure by recycling more organic matter and changing from a tap-rooted crop to a fibrous root system.
Numerous other beneficial effects of rotation have been reported, including improvements in soil fertility, soil moisture, soil microbes, and phytotoxic compounds and/or growth promoting substances originating from crop residues. Growers can maintain these benefits by continuing to rotate crops on a yearly basis. A crop rotation system also spreads risk in case of unpredictable problems.
Grain sorghum can serve as a more drought tolerant crop than either corn or soybeans for Mississippi producers. Thus, sorghum’s productivity potential is relatively stable, compared to alternative crops, particularly when grown on heavy clay or doughty soils. Furthermore, sorghum will produce tremendous agronomic benefits when utilized in a crop rotation system with soybeans or cotton.
Sorghum, soybeans and cotton grown in rotation systems consistently improve crop yields 10-20 percent compared to continuous cropping systems. Crop rotations normally improve yields because many weed, insect, nematode and disease problems build up when growing the same crop and management system every year. Crop rotation systems effectively eliminate many of these cumulative effects, preventing problems, reducing inputs, raising yields and increasing profitability. Crop rotation allows producers to solve predominant pest problems, including diseases, weeds, nematodes and insects, by simply switching crops, rather than implementing costly inputs.
Sorghum also produces substantial long-term crop rotation benefits by improving soil physical properties. Sorghum produces about three times more plant residue than cotton or soybeans. This plant’s debris is recycled into the soil as organic matter. Increasing soil organic matter improves soil-properties conducive to plant growth, including increasing the proportion of large soil aggregates, increasing soil-water infiltration and water holding capacity. Increasing soil organic matter content improves soil tilth and structure, which reduces soil crusting and water erosion, and increases soil-water infiltration and soil water and nutrient holding capacity. These soil physical improvements not only improve plant growth, but may also reduce environmental pollution, by reducing runoff and erosion. These improvements also reduce the need for expensive annual deep tillage operations and irrigation.
Numerous other beneficial effects of crop rotation have been reported, including improvements in soil fertility, soil moisture, soil microbes, and phytotoxic compounds and/or growth promoting substances originating from crop residues. A crop rotation system also spreads risk in case of unpredictable crop-specific problems. Growers can maintain these benefits by continuing to rotate crops on a yearly basis.
Chemical herbicide options, including herbicide-resistance technology, are more limited for sorghum weed control, relative to other primary crops, such as corn, soybeans and cotton. This makes controlling weeds more difficult when growing sorghum in some fields, particularly those infested with Johnson grass or abundant annual grass species, compared to other crops.
Wheat yields in the range of 30 to 50 bushels per acre are common, and yields in the 60- to 80-bushel range may be produced under good management and favorable weather conditions. Oat yields from 70 to 80 bushels per acre are common. Yields of more than 100 bushels per acre have been made under good management and favorable weather conditions.
Winter varieties of small grains require a certain amount of cold weather (less than 40 °F) before the plants will form reproductive structures (seed heads). The period of time varies with variety, but somewhere between 4 and 9 weeks of low temperatures are required. This process is called vernalization. Most of the wheat varieties planted in this state require low temperatures to reproduce. In some years, south Mississippi doesn’t have enough cold weather for winter wheat, causing little or no seed-head production.
Small grains are adapted to soil types throughout the state. Avoid areas such as the wet, poorly drained, heavy soils of the Delta and the wet, bottom areas of the Hill section. Wheat will not tolerate poor drainage conditions and still produce an economical yield. Thin, badly eroded soils also will not produce economical yields and should not be planted to grain.