AUBURN, Ala.— Record-breaking drought has added a new component to planting decisions for farmers.
The worst conditions since 2006 were cause for concern as producers began planning winter and spring crops.
Planting Wheat in North Alabama
Tyler Sandlin, a Crops Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said wheat acreage would likely be lower in North Alabama this year.
“Some reduction is due in part to price,” Sandlin said. “Other producers have reduced acreage due to drought conditions. However, many producers planted and are continuing to plant wheat.”
Typical planting dates range from Oct. 20 through Nov. 20 in North Alabama. Some early wheat received a small amount of rain—enough for seed to germinate and make a stand.
Sandlin said most of the wheat is in the ground waiting for rainfall in order to germinate and produce a viable stand. A few producers have planted wheat under pivots and used them to initiate germination.
“Some producers already had wheat booked so they were committed to planting,” he said. “Others want to keep it in their crop rotation and are committed to planting. There are a few who have decided not to plant and some who will likely file for prevented planting.”
Farmers in Uncharted Territory
“We are truly in uncharted territory with respect to the drought and what lies in store for this year’s crop,” Sandlin said. “If wheat seed remains in the ground for a relatively short time (two to four weeks or more) with no moisture to initiate germination, and then receives adequate rain, issues should be minimal given the seed quality and barring really low temperatures.”
He said in areas where there has been enough soil moisture to initiate germination but not enough to sustain the process, serious issues related to stand loss and seedling mortality could occur.
Sandlin said the longer weather inhibits emergence, especially late into the fall, the ability to produce fall tillers dwindles. Fall tillers can contribute significantly to wheat yield.
Absence of fall tillers will likely impact the way producers manage their crop in the spring with respect to nitrogen applications. In the absence of fall produced tillers, the need for splitting nitrogen application in fall and spring will likely be necessary.
Root system development is a concern going into the winter. Underdeveloped root systems can lead to a greater potential for winter kill going into cooler months.
Looking Forward to Spring Crops
Drought is not currently affecting North Alabama’s spring crop plans, aside from replacing wheat in a few months. He said there is a fair increase in the potential for cotton acres this spring. Several producers intend to increase cotton acres. Some are planning to plant cotton, even those who have not in some time.
Extension’s Climate and Crops iBook
Learn more about Climate and Crops, Alabama Extension’s newest iBook, at http://www.aces.edu/climateandcrops.
Climate and Crops focuses on the Southeast’s five major row crops: corn, cotton, peanut, soybean and wheat. It features multiple interactive options, including 17 videos, 33 interactive graphics and hundreds of images related to problematic insects, diseases and weeds.
Climate and Crops is a comprehensive resource not only for farmers, crop consultants and Cooperative Extension.