â€œI donâ€™t see anything good coming from it.â€
That statement pretty much summed up the preliminary assessments of crop specialists in Mississippi, speaking Monday on cell phones as hurricane Katrina moved up the continent after slamming the coasts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, killing more than 50 people and leaving destruction in its wake.
Corn and rice, still in the field, were expected to take the hardest hits, specialists said.
Tom Barber, cotton specialist at the Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension, says the hurricane hammered growers in southern Mississippi, putting fields under water. If thereâ€™s a silver lining to the destruction of the hurricane, it could be that farther north in the state, the cotton was not open. â€œWe havenâ€™t defoliated yet,â€ Barber says. â€œWeâ€™ll lose some to rot and have lots of plants on the ground, but â€¦ it could have been a lot worse if we had had open cotton in the Delta.â€
Alan Blaine, Mississippi State University Extension soybean specialist, said, â€œItâ€™s not going to be good. If weâ€™re looking at downed crops, we can get them up, but if it stays wet, we have rotten crops. A lot of this crop is ready to gather, and then weâ€™re going to get into fields that are extremely wet and cause problems that weâ€™ll have to fix next year. I donâ€™t see anything good happening from it.â€
While Steve Martin, Mississippi State University Extension ag economist, says itâ€™s too early to tell the numbers from the damage, he says the main concern is rice. Martin says the cost to harvest rice could increase three-fold.
â€œRice is going to go down,â€ Martin says. â€œVery little has been harvested and the wind and rain will put it on the ground. Weâ€™ll probably have some rice that rots. The second concern is corn. Wind will be a problem on corn. Itâ€™s going to affect soybeans and corn and string out cotton.
â€œIf we get hit bad weâ€™ll know on Tuesday ,â€ Martin says. â€œIf we didnâ€™t get hit hard in the Delta, we wonâ€™t know until harvest.â€
At the point, Martin was speaking late Monday afternoon, it had just begun to rain in Stoneville, Miss., at the Delta Research and Extension Center. â€œResearchers have been checking their plots today.â€