Damage to Tennessee’s agricultural lands due to the May 1 flooding has been extensive. As farms dry out, producers have many tough decisions to make about this year’s crops.

University of Tennessee Extension specialists provide insights on farmers’ options for planting or re-planting Tennessee’s agronomic crops.

Wheat: According to Chris Main, UT Extension cotton and small grains specialist, if flood waters moved off your wheat by Monday, May 3, the crop should survive and mature normally. If the flood lasted 4 or more days there is potential for crop loss. As water saturates the soil it replaces oxygen in the soil and allows conditions to become anaerobic. This condition will cause root tissue to die leading to lodged wheat.

So should you terminate your wheat to get a jumpstart on planting other crops? According to Main, by the time the soil dries out enough to do any fieldwork, you should be able to tell if the wheat is going to die. Other than isolated low spots in wheat fields, Main believes most water moved off the crop quickly enough to avoid damage. The exception would be any fields that were still flooded on Wednesday, May 5.

CAUTION: Wheat that was flooded can and most likely will have debris (trash, stumps, trees, etc.) that can cause costly damage to harvest equipment.

Cotton: With a good forecast, many areas will be ready for cotton planting soon. Although Main says cotton planting may be limited in river and creek bottoms due to flooding.

April planted acres need to be checked for stand quality and replant decisions should be made quickly. If a stand is questionable, replant quickly. This replanted cotton will likely catch and surpass the performance of the stunted cotton that is currently in the field.

There is an excellent replant decision guide that can be found at the UTCrops.com Web site. Here’s a direct link to the publication: http://www.utextension.utk.edu/fieldCrops/cotton/VarietyTestingData/W073.pdf.

Cotton seed companies have very robust re-plant policies to aid farmers in the event a re-plant is needed. There are many details to companies’ plans, and the starting resource for all re-plant needs should begin at the retail outlet where you purchased the seed. However, a short synopsis of each company’s policies can be found in the IPM Newsletter at http://www.utextension.utk.edu/fieldCrops/cotton/cotton_insects/newsletters/2010/IPM5-2010.pdf.

Corn: Corn loss estimates are still coming in on river bottom fields as the water continues to rise, and there is cleanup to do in those bottom fields that have drained off, but most upland fields look good except for some washing on hillsides and wet low spots.

According to Angela McClure, UT Extension corn and soybean specialist, as long as the corn was out of the ground, stands shouldn’t be badly impacted as long as soil is able to drain. Where corn had not emerged, McClure says producers should check fields over the next few days. Since we are into early May, McClure says a uniform corn stand of 24,000 plants per acre would definitely be a keeper. A lesser stand will see reduced yield potential.

Flooded river bottoms planted to corn will be wet for two or more weeks. Crop insurance requirements may dictate how much corn is replanted this year. May 20 is the cutoff for full coverage insurance and June 15 is the late planting cutoff that qualifies for reduced insurance coverage.

Soybeans: Only a small percentage of soybean acres were planted prior to the flood. According to McClure, emerged soybeans may be more tolerant to short-term flooding than corn. She says the target population for keeping a soybean field is uniform stand of 100,000 plants per acre or better for a Group 4 bean.

More detailed information on all crop issues can be found at UTCrops.com or in the weekly University of Tennessee IPM Newsletter. You can view the complete newsletter by clicking on the following link: http://www.utextension.utk.edu/fieldCrops/cotton/cotton_insects/newsletters/2010/IPM5-2010.pdf.

All specialists cited in the article are located at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson. You can contact them by phone by dialing 731-425-4729.