This mild spring has changed most of the things we do in preparation for the crop, but this is not the first time this has happened. I can recall the stories I heard my grandparents tell about strange weather, one in which the winter was so warm that the cotton sprouted from plants from the previous season, performing as the perennial plant it actually is.
As the story went, this happened around 1930. This date agrees with data published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It also agrees with a statement in the recently published Mississippi Weather and Climate by Morris, Wax, and Brown that the highest temperature in Mississippi was 115 degrees F in 1930.
Cotton plants could not have survived in this region if soil temperatures dropped very much below freezing at 32 degrees F. Given the fact that soil temperatures in this region commonly drop into the mid-twenties this was an unusual occurrence. As I have been in fields during the past few weeks getting ready for corn planting I have not seen any volunteer cotton plants.
I feel it is safe to conclude that this was not the warmest winter this area has experienced. It may be one of the warmest any of us can recall, but unless someone was old enough to remember the winter of 1930 we don’t have an eyewitness.
There seems to be at least one unfortunate result of the mild winter we have experienced. The chilling requirement for vernalization of wheat have apparently not been met in some varieties of this crop, especially in Louisiana and possibly in some southwestern portions of Mississippi. When this occurs wheat plants do not change completely from the vegetative stage of growth to the reproductive stage.
Thankfully, most of the wheat varieties that are commonly planted in this region can vernalize and produce good grain yields with significantly reduced chilling. However, there are a few later maturing varieties that require more chilling in order to be vernalized. Some of these fields are not producing normal heads at this time and it appears that the yield of these varieties may be reduced in some cases.
Another issue with winter cereal grains is that the mild weather has allowed for the early infection of the crop by diseases, primarily the rust organisms that are transmitted by wind currents from alternate hosts and crops southwest of our area. The prevailing southwesterly winds bring spores of these diseases to our area every year, the degree of infection depending mainly upon the amount of spores that arrive and the weather in this area.
This year weather has been almost ideal for disease production and movement, so we may see these and other diseases in many fields. A quick look at a variety trial has suggested to me that we have varieties that are very susceptible to the rusts and others that approach resistance to these infections. This should be a good year to choose which varieties to be plant in the future.
Thanks for your time.