AUBURN, Ala.—The late winter and early spring months of 2017 brought weather less than ideal for planting. Some farmers had warmer soil temperatures and enough moisture to plant corn several weeks ago, while others are still waiting for rain to boost soil moisture levels.
More than 90 percent of the state is already in a drought situation as May begins. Unsurprisingly, the rains in late April were spotty and scattered. Alabama Extension regional crops agents and specialists are hopeful the coming rains will refresh the ground and bring moisture so farmers can begin planting.
North Alabama Planting Update
Alabama Extension Crops Specialist Tyler Sandlin said producers in North Alabama are nearly finished planting corn. He estimates 80 to 90 percent of the corn crop is in the ground. Most of the planted corn is emerging nicely.
The corn benefitted from varying amounts of rainfall in the northern part of the state during the third weekend in April. Some areas had as much as one to 2.5-inches.
“Several producers began planting cotton within the past two weeks, so about 25 percent of the cotton crop is in the ground,” Sandlin said. “Planters will be wide open during the coming weeks.”
By Sandlin’s estimation, about 10 percent of the area’s soybean crop is in the ground. Based on weather conditions, these numbers could improve or fall within the next week or two.
Larger operations with multiple planters and large equipment can comfortably plant 400-600 acres per day. At this rate, planted acres in North Alabama would increase dramatically.
Central Alabama Spring Planting Update
Sandlin’s colleague, Alabama Extension crops agent Rudy Yates said there is some planted cotton in Marengo County, while other producers will wait until after May 1.
“Most producers are finishing up corn planting and beginning to plant beans,” Yates said. “Soil temperatures have been warm. When our area hits 90 degrees toward the end of the week, I think many producers will be itching to plant—especially with rain.”
Jamie Yeager, director of the Black Belt Research and Extension Center, said corn has been planted and is making a good stand. He said soybeans are being planted, but many peanut and cotton producers are waiting for the current cool spell to pass.
“I’m hopeful a good bit of cotton will go in the ground this week and next week, especially if we get a good rain Thursday or Friday,” Yeager said. “As for peanuts, I think they will be similar to cotton in that most will be planted later this week and throughout next week depending on the moisture situation.”
Yeager said over all producers are one week to 10 days early planting cotton, peanuts and soybeans, so they are in a position to wait for rain if needed.
Regional crops agent Christy Hicks said some producers in Macon and Elmore counties have already planted cotton. Many are still waiting for soil moisture and the May 1 plant date.
“Corn is off to a good start and growing rapidly,” Hicks said. “I believe with some of the area receiving rain, a good bit of cotton will be planted in the coming week.”
So far, rains have been scattered. Some areas received decent rainfall, while others received less.
South Alabama Planting Update
Alabama Extension crops specialist William Birdsong said rain is needed to really kick off the planting season in the Wiregrass.
“Dry soil conditions have hindered planting here as well,” Birdsong said. “The planted corn looks very good and farmers are spraying to control weeds. Producers are also making fertilizer applications.”
Most of the corn in the Wiregrass area has irrigation, and farmers have already begun watering.
Birdsong said very little cotton and peanuts have been planted. Farmers are hopeful this year, but getting a spring planting rain is critical to the beginning of this crop season.
“The longer the delay, the more critical conditions will get,” he said. “The soil temperature is good again, but producers need moisture in order to begin planting.”
For more information on the state of agronomic crops in your area, contact your local Extension agent. For more production information visit http://www.aces.edu/. Find more information on caring for crops during drought on the Alabama Drought website.