By Katie Nichols
Alabama farmers faced cool, wet weather at the beginning of spring. This kept many farmers out of their fields for several weeks. In a twist, manageable only by Mother Nature, many producers are now hoping for rain as they begin planting cotton and soybeans.
William Birdsong, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist of agronomic crops, said 2018 has been a different year for producers.
“Most of the corn in the Wiregrass was planted at the end of March and through the first 10 days of April,” Birdsong said. “This is different from last year’s corn planting where the majority of corn acreage was planted during the first two weeks of March. The rest was planted by the end of the month.”
Birdsong said the first real start to any cotton or peanut planting in 2018 began during the third week of April before the weekend rains.
Similar Weather Situations Across the State
Wiregrass farmers are not the only ones battling Mother Nature’s whims.
Tyler Sandlin, also an Extension specialist of agronomic crops in the Tennessee Valley, said producers in his area also had a slow start to the planting season. With warmer weather and good soil temperatures they were able to recover some lost ground.
“Farmers are finishing the corn planting and moving on to cotton and soybeans,” Sandlin said. “Because of the weather conditions early in the spring, producers were behind. Conditions are finally right and farmers are gaining ground, making up for lost time last month.”
Sandlin said technology allows producers the opportunity to make up a lot of time.
“Decades ago, farmers were pushing time and fighting the weather,” Sandlin said. “With the technology farmers have now, running long hours or through the night enables them to capitalize on every hour of days with the right conditions.”
Corn Nematode Issues
Regional Extension Agents Brandon Dillard and Rudy Yates both reported corn nematode issues after the cool, wet spring weather.
Dillard said south Alabama producers were encouraged to plant corn along with a nematicide to protect corn from nematodes. Those who didn’t are either applying fertilizer to help the corn grow out of the susceptible phase, or willing it to grow. Dillard said some may be considering a replant.
Yates said every producer is planting, but Central Alabama producers have moisture concerns.
“Some farmers may hold off on planting to wait for moisture,” Yates said. “Folks with no-till land have a little bit of moisture, but others are choosing to wait for rain.”
Crop Progress Report
The most recent crop progress report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports six days of the week ending May 6 were suitable for farming.
While producers were slow out of the starting gate, numbers are on par with the previous year’s progress and the five-year average.
NASS reports indicate 88 percent of the state’s corn crop is in the ground thus far. The percentage of corn planted by the first of May in 2017 was 91 percent. The five-year average of planted corn for this time is 86 percent. The statewide emergence percentage is 67 percent, down 14 percent from 2017 but near the five-year average of 70 percent.
The report also indicates 30 percent of peanuts are in the ground. This exceeds the five-year average by 15 percent and tops 2017 by 9 percent.
Soybean acres planted total 15 percent. This percentage hangs near the previous year’s 17 percent and the five-year average of 14 percent.