Farmers ahead of schedule for harvesting

Published 2:54 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The recent dry and hot weather has put some north Mississippi farmers ahead of schedule for harvesting.

At this time last year, excessive rains had left many farmers to work in the mud and some to abandon their crops in the field, experts say.

“Last year at this time we had zero (acres) harvested,” said Tommy Harrison of BHF and Co. in south Pontotoc County. “This time, we have over 3,000 acres harvested. If things go well, we should finish harvesting a week later than we started last year.”

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Harrison told The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that harvest time normally goes until about Thanksgiving. This year, the process is about 30 days ahead of schedule on Harrison’s farm, where he has cotton, corn, soybeans and sweet potatoes.

Douglas Kitchens, a farmer in the northwest Itawamba community of Kirkville, said his cotton, which was planted May 13, is ahead of schedule too. It should take him about three weeks to pick his 900 cotton acres and then he plans to move on to his later-maturing soybean fields.

The majority of northeast Mississippi farmers are harvesting their soybean fields now.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop progress and condition report for the week ending Sept. 26, the state’s soybean crop is 65 percent harvested, up from 30 percent last year. The five-year average for this time is 59 percent.

Many farmers report their soybean crops have been “average” this year, noting that the yield and quality depend on how much rain an individual field received.

Keith Morton, who farms about 1,000 acres in Falkner, said his soybean fields have been through a lot this year, but he’s pleased with the harvest he’s seen so far.

“Parts of the farm were under water in May. Now, we’re harvesting one of the highest-quality, high-yielding crops we’ve had in a few years,” Morton said.

The USDA report said the state’s corn harvest was complete. The state’s cotton harvest is about 51 percent finished. This time last year, the USDA said, no acres had been harvested.

About 75 percent of the harvest was destroyed by excessive rains last year, but a better crop is expected this year, according to estimates from the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

“We have extremely high-quality potatoes coming out of the ground,” said Benny Graves, the executive secretary of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council. “They’ve been grown and harvested under ideal conditions. Yields are a bit above average in a lot of cases, and I haven’t seen this quality in a number of years.”

According to MSU, yields are averaging about 275-300 bushels per acre, up from the state’s average of 250-275 bushels an acre.

Sixty-five percent of the state’s sweet potato acreage had been harvested as of last week, the USDA said.