Walt's Look Around: Delta Corn - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: Delta Corn

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT

It’s summertime and time for fresh veggies from your garden or the Farmer’s market.  Most of us can remember the transformation of the Delta from cotton fields to cornfields. Some of that corn we can eat now. But most of it we eat later. But ALL of it is here to stay it looks like.

Tom Pitts in Indianola told me on the phone that the sweet corn was just about finished and if I wanted any I better step on it. But just driving in, there are still miles and miles and thousands of acres of corn yet to be harvested in the Delta. So what’s the deal that it’s almost gone?

Well, all corn isn’t equal. That sweet table corn is about gone, but the rest of it is mostly field corn. Not that you can’t eat it, and not that you won’t. But not until it’s been sold as feed to something more tasty and brought back in the meat department.

Dr. Wayne Ebelhar at the Stoneville Experiment Station explained a few things to me about Delta corn and why it has eclipsed cotton as the crop of choice in the Delta. Obviously, it’s more profitable. But why?

"The big shifts in Mississippi is to irrigation," said Dr. Ebelhar, Agronomist at the Stoneville Experiment Station. "And irrigation and timing and the price of grain crops has really brought Mississippi to the limelight as a grain state."

Dr. Ebelhar gave me a brief, half-hour audit of one of his courses. 

Corn in Mississippi hits the market a good month ahead of mid-west corn, bringing a better than market price for our growers often, because the overall supply is still short at that time.

But irrigation is the ace we have in the Delta. If we need a rain and nature doesn’t give us one, the alluvial aquifer underground lets us pump one up, here. It’s not that easy and often cost prohibitive to irrigate like this elsewhere.

Proximity to the market is another plus for Southern grains. Most of the early season corn is exported. It’s a lot less expensive to take a grain barge from Greenville to New Orleans than it is from, say Illinois. And grain bins have popped up about as quickly as cotton gins have disappeared. Our infrastructure is geared toward grains now.

I really can’t see foresee people getting out of it," said Dr. Ebelhar.

There is still cotton planted in the Delta this year. But just driving through, it looks a lot more like Kansas than what Mis’sippi used to look like.

And I thought a lot of this corn was being turned into ethanol, but all of ours in Mississippi is either sweet corn we’ll eat or sold to make feed for livestock.

Which, I guess we will eat, too. 

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