Through the years we have talked about July rains in Central and Southern Mississippi. We commonly experience a fairly dry period during the month of June even though this year was an exception for many localities.
Rains usually arrive in July to quench the thirsts of crops and people. Some people go so far as to say “it always rains on the Fourth”. It did indeed rain on the Fourth this year but too little for fields that had not seen rain in three weeks or more.
In the Central part of Mississippi there is an area that stretches from somewhere in Carroll or Holmes counties southward into Hinds and Warren counties.
This is not all-inclusive to be sure since there are localities within this region that have received rain and there are of course areas in other parts of the same area where localized drought conditions exist. There are farms where some parts have received good rainfall and other portions have not.
The crops we grow vary greatly in their abilities to tolerate drought and heat. Cotton is the recognized champ for heat and limited drought tolerance. It continues to progress toward good yields well into the high-nineties (F) largely due to its taproot type root system that draws from deeper water supplies.
The peak level of efficiency for cotton is around 90 degrees and the plants are able to produce more yield of lint and seed when night temperatures drop in the seventies. When this ideal situation exists the plant is able to “rest” at night rather than having to deplete stored energy in cooling itself.
Cotton is actually a tropical perennial that we grow as a subtropical annual but it benefits from its ancestry to tolerate our summers.
Corn is another story. From its origin in the Andes corn prefers cooler “Midwest” or “Corn Belt” weather with daytime temperatures in the mid-eighties to low nineties and night temperatures in the sixties. Corn reaches its best efficiency in good sunlight with temperature around 85 degrees.
Unlike cotton and soybeans which are “C3” plants corn is a C4 plant and is what may be considered as a carbon hog. It takes in carbon dioxide and turns it almost directly into sugars rather than going through intermediate steps like a C3 plant.
Corn requires massive quantities of nitrogen and water along with the other elements that come together to support growth and reproduction. Corn must have plenty of water during pollination. After that it is a little more forgiving but adequate water is needed until maturity at the “black layer” stage.
Soybeans are also more of a Midwestern crop than Southern. Their ideal temperature is normally considered to be in the mid-eighties but the work of breeders through the years has enabled both corn and soybeans to produce almost as well here as they do in cooler areas.
In fact there have been years when Mississippi soybean yields have been higher than in some of the more traditional soybean producing states. The key is early planting, excellent soil fertility, good drainage, good pest management practices and plenty but not excessive water.
Peanuts are in many ways a stress tolerant crop like cotton although they are legumes and in the same plant family as soybeans. They deal well with heat and moisture stress when a few of their needs are met on time. They fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere like soybeans but require good soil aeration so there is air around the nodules from which the N can be taken. This means good drainage.
They also require soil that has plenty of calcium in the zone where the nuts will be formed and a fairly soft soil surface that will allow the pegs to penetrate and form the pods under the soil surface.
The peanut is like cotton in my opinion since it is a true Southern crop that can tolerate our climate. However it needs a good supply of timely moisture through the blooming, pegging, and nut formation periods.
I don’t know why weather fascinates me so much because we certainly can’t control it although a lot of discussion is ongoing about doing just that. Personally I think we need to leave it to the Lord. Thanks for your time.