What is in this article?:
- April tornadoes change upper Southeast cropping plans
- Timely planting not an option
- Early maturing varieties
- Cotton is natural benefactor
• Huge jumps in cotton acreage are expected in both North Carolina and Virginia and the big storm system may have increased the amount of cotton that will be planted.
• Corn planting was already delayed in most of North Carolina and was just beginning in southeast Virginia.
• Wheat was little-affected by the storm, other than from debris that littered fields from the southern end of North Carolina and through the Tidewater area of Virginia.
Timely planting not an option
How much the storm system changed planting plans for corn won’t be known until long after the crop is planted. In some areas along the storm’s path timely planting wasn’t an option.
Late planting was an option and from agronomic standpoint that won’t likely be a big issue.
Veteran North Carolina State University Corn Specialist Ron Heiniger says the storm created a real mess in the heart of the state’s corn belt. However, he says the delayed planting date prior to the storm may have been a blessing.
In the southern end of the state, some corn had been planted, but surprisingly not a lot, Heiniger says. “Some of it was planted, but hadn’t emerged and other fields were about to the G3 stage — the largest corn I had seen prior to the storm. Damage to corn at this stage of growth usually reduces yield by about 10 percent,” he adds.
The huge amounts of debris in fields no doubt slowed down corn planting, but dryer, more seasonal weather following the storm has helped fields dry out and has improved planting conditions. As long as growers got corn planted by May 15, they should be okay from a yield standpoint, Heiniger says.
“Though growers could replant without too much penalty, right now I’m not recommending that,” Heiniger says. “When you plan for a replant, you have to worry about burning it down and re-disking, all of which takes time and money,” he adds.
“There was a good window of opportunity to planting from the end of April through mid-May. Our data indicates you don’t lose much if you get corn in by May 15.”
Heiniger urged growers to not panic, get things cleaned up, debris removed and there is still time to get corn planted. How many growers took his advice remains to be seen.
Pushing corn planting back to early May likely won’t have a big effect on the corn crop, but it puts a serious crimp in putting in other crops, primarily cotton.
“From past experience with tornado damage there will be some strange things found in fields — you just hope you find some of these things before you run over them with a wheat combine or a planter,” says long-time North Carolina Crop Consultant Bill Peele.
“Some of the areas hit by the storms in April will be obliterated with litter from the tornadoes, and the farmer knows he has to get in there and get all that stuff out before he can harvest or plant a crop.
In other areas, sometimes a long distance from where a tornado came through you will be walking in a field and pick up a 2-3 foot long piece of a 2X4. So, growers are going to have to take a lot of extra time looking at fields to be sure it’s safe to plant and that’s going to take some extra time,” Peele adds.
“Pushing cotton planting dates back a few weeks, up until May 15, won’t make a significant impact on yields, if other stress factors don’t occur,” Peele says.
“We’ve planted cotton in June, behind wheat, and it did okay. Real late planted cotton typically has plenty of bolls on the plant and many won’t open. So, planting much past the first week of June is going to be a real problem,” he adds.