This spring has been among the driest on record for corn farmers in the Missouri Bootheel, and irrigation may already be overdue for corn planted in sandy soil, says a University of Missouri (MU) irrigation specialist.

"This is the driest year of any we've looked at since 1970, as far as the earliest need for an irrigation," says Joe Henggeler, extension irrigation specialist at MU Delta Research Center in Portageville, MO. "For corn on sandy soil, irrigation this year should be by May 5. For deeper soils, the first irrigation should be by May 10."

Normally, he says, the first irrigation is necessary around May 23. In the past three decades, the earliest first-irrigation date in the Charleston, MO, area was May 12. "The current situation clearly calls for irrigation a week before the old record."

Using weather data from eight Bootheel locations, Henggeler calculated that by April 15, cornfields in southeast Missouri were already an average of 0.83 in below optimum rainfall. The Glennonville, MO, location was the driest, with a deficit of 0.95 in, he says.

Henggeler points out that early irrigation helps maximize corn yield potential. He adds that wheat might also be drought stressed and need irrigating.

For more information contact Joe Henggeler at 573-379-5431 or Pat Guinan at 573- 882-5908.