Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TOP STORY >> Farmers looking to plant

Leader senior staff writer

There is water on some fields in the southern part of Lonoke County and in drainage furrows in the lighter soils after recent rains, according to Lonoke County Extension Chief Jeff Welch.

“Wheat that’s been fertilized looks pretty good,” he said. “But we need to get fertilizer out with a nitrogen stabilizer, which will prevent the ammonia from going into the air instead of the ground.”

Welch said that’s a problem when the ground is wet and the weather warm. The nitrogen becomes a gas and goes directly into the atmosphere.

“Weather has delayed the wheat crop,” he said. The cold weather has slowed it, but, if the farmers can get into the field soon, they may make a decent crop. He said they need that because the price is down near break-even.

“The planting schedule will be very compressed,” he said. “They’ll be working long days.”
Some of the wheat has tillered and some is tillering now, which results in a larger harvest. The heads should start to elongate soon, he said.

Wet fields have delayed field preparation for rice, soybeans and corn.

“If we can start preparing the ground next week, and if temperatures are in the 70s with wind and sun to help dry the fields, then a good yield is still possible,” he said.

“We’re going to have delayed planting on those three crops. If we’re delayed two or three weeks, we’ll have reduced yields.

“If it’s warm and sunny and we don’t get more than a fifth of an inch of rain on Wednesday or Thursday, then next Tuesday or Wednesday farmers with sandier soils can take to the fields,” he said.

“Normally, we start rice in the last week of March. Now we’re looking at April 10,” he said — and that’s if the rain lets up.

“Same with corn,” he said. “It’ll be about April 10, with the assumption we don’t get into a weather pattern.”

But Welch said it was starting to get critical. “Within the next (week or so), if we’re in the same shape, we’re in trouble for early planted crops, and they usually have better yields — especially rice.”

Corn prices are expected to be down this year and maybe unstable, so Welch said farmers will be converting to milo, a feed grain with price stability.

Milo was subject to the sugarcane aphid last year and could force farmers to use the one insecticide with some effect on it.

“Soybeans, we’re on time. We usually plant earlier beans April 10,” Welch said.

But, if weather-related events hit at the wrong time, that could be trouble.

“We have enough moisture for pastures and hayfields, especially fescue-type pastures,” Welch said. Most local pastures are Bermuda.

All the ponds are full and irrigation reservoirs are full.

The deadline for farmers to upgrade expected yields and basis and to choose between different kinds of protective programs was been extended from Feb. 27 to March 31, he added.