“We encourage farmers to consult the planting conditions calculator – check it in the morning and check it in the evening. If the forecast changes, you’ll see that reflected in the calculator.
“If it doesn’t rain a lot on Thursday night, you’re going to see plenty of planting start Saturday. And that’s right on time. How much we will plant depends on how much it rains on Thursday and what the weather does later next week.”
Jennifer Bearden, Extension Agricultural Agent, Okaloosa County, Florida:
“Our corn is up a little, and cotton is just going into the ground. Our mild winter means thrips and insect control need to be a strong focus for everybody.
“People already are reporting grasshoppers in high numbers. It’s critical to stay on top of thrips and make sure we don’t leave things open for tomato spotted wilt virus to develop in our peanuts.
“Closely scout young crops to see whether pests exceed thresholds. We haven’t detected worm issues in corn yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me for that to sneak up quickly.”
Ron Smith, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University:
“The planting window will likely open wide the first of next week. We saw a few tractors in the field early this week, although not many considering that we were in our heavy production areas in south Alabama. After this next front moves through, nearly everybody is going to be chomping at the bit to start planting. After all, it will be May after this week. That’s when we plant cotton.
“Keep watching the thrips predictor tool. The heaviest pressure for thrips will be in north Alabama in May, which is when the cotton will be emerging. What I see in terms of the model’s forecasts all goes back to rainfall patterns. Where it rained more, thrips movement has been pushed into May. Where it rained less, thrips movement occurred in April. That’s the case in south Alabama – the heavy thrips pressure was in April, so it’s behind us now.
“We are seeing heavy grasshopper pressure, with most still in the immature stage. While small, it’s easy to control them with just about any cotton insecticide.
“When we see more immatures following an insecticide application, that may not be because the treatment failed or didn’t work well. Grasshoppers don’t uniformly emerge from their overwintering position in the soil, and they can come out over a period of time.
“Our recommendation for grasshopper control is to make a burndown application that includes an insecticide that’s tank-mixed with an insect growth regulator (IGR) for residual control.
“Auburn Extension Entomologist Scott Graham found redbanded stinkbugs (RBSB) on crimson clover at Prattville. That means they are overwintering at least that far north and likely any place south of there, including the Florida Panhandle.
“RBSB does not damage cotton, only soybeans, and they probably won’t begin to hit soybeans until the crop begins developing seeds in the pod. My advice is to wait until early pod fill before considering a spray to control them, and then make an application that covers stinkbugs and foliage feeders, such as velvetbean caterpillars and soybean loopers, which also tend to start building at early pod fill.”
Steve Brown, Extension Cotton Agronomist, Auburn University, Alabama:
“Folks in south Alabama are in the field planting peanuts and cotton, but it doesn’t look like a lot of acres have been covered yet. That’s going to change Friday afternoon (5/1) when we turn the corner on springtime and head to summer.
“We do think it pays to watch the thrips model to schedule planting. Cotton that was planted earlier — like a field we saw that was planted a couple of weeks ago — is struggling. That cotton was in cold ground and not growing. When it’s just sitting there, thrips can tear it up. In that specific case, those farmers don’t know if they will make a stand.
“Generally, warm weather and a good thrips spray will help the crop turn the corner and start growing. With good seed vigor, cotton can outgrow thrips damage, albeit sometimes with help from that thrips overspray.
“When temperatures warm up, cotton will emerge in 4 or 5 days instead of a week or so.
“With prices where they are, we might see a slight decrease in cotton acres. It’s hard to say for sure because this is such a tumultuous time — both in terms of the economy and in our personal lives.
“The corn weather has been so bad that farmers backed off corn, but soybean prices don’t look good, either. It’s a survival year. The only thing that might lure some acres to soybean is that we don’t have to spend as much to plant them.”
Brandon Dillard, Seed Certification Associate, Alabama Crop Improvement:
“Anywhere from 4 to 7 inches of rain fell on our fields last week. Planters started back to work on Tuesday and, with more rain expected, they likely will stop again today (Wednesday, 4/29).
“Since we had a long thrips season last year – then followed by a mild winter – we expect high thrips pressure this year. We need to do whatever possible to control thrips – whether it’s in-furrow, hopper boxes, oversprays – just to stay on top of them.
“We already see grasshoppers. Remember that the smaller they are, the easier they are to control.
“In corn, post-emergence herbicides and fertilizer are going out. Rainfall has been perfect for corn, and some older corn is touching.
“Most everybody is focusing on planting peanuts and cotton. A few folks have switched some cotton acres to peanuts. A fellow once told me that if I can’t make it in the short-term, I can’t make it in the long-term. So, if you can, stay on your rotation.
“Switching less than 10% of your acreage out of rotation might make sense, but you don’t want to wreck your rotation for price. You also have to think about harvest. If you move heavily into one commodity, do you have enough equipment to harvest all those extra acres this fall?”
Johnny Parker, Agronomist, Commonwealth Gin, Windsor, Virginia:
“Planting season is upon us, although it will certainly be a different season than we have experienced in recent years. We hope Tuesday (4/28) was the last day with temperatures below 40 degrees, although we’re still not going directly into summer.
“Early May’s forecast says that temperatures will remain below normal, although still adequately warm enough to begin planting.
“When temperatures every day are above 80 degrees, planting is easy and fast – and every variety looks good and every strategy works. Last year was like that, and cotton came up the same week that you planted it. This year, I expect early-planted cotton will need a couple of weeks to emerge.