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Fall 2011


Ag News and Notes

  • Greene County Center

    North Carolina Cooperative Extension

    229 Kingold Blvd., Suite E

    Snow Hill, NC 28580

    Phone 252.747.5831 Fax 252.747.7024


    • An Introduction

    • April Crop Report

    • Early Season Thrips Control

    • News To Know


  • Crops Report

  • Wheat Planting

  • Cotton Defoliation

  • Upcoming Events

Crops Report
What a year it has been for farmers in Greene County. We have seen a wet, early spring followed by a dry summer, and we’ve experienced all sorts of natural disasters including tornadoes, hail, localized flooding, a hurricane, and even an earthquake! Farmers this year have been asked to do the impossible—grow a bumper crop despite these conditions. A few of our crops will stand this test, but not all made it unscathed.

Our tobacco crop suffered the most extensive damage of any crop as a result of Hurricane Irene. Wind and rain beat the leaves for 12 hours straight, causing the leaves to undergo a lot of stress. This stress caused ethylene gas, a ripening agent the plant naturally produces, to be produced prematurely in the leaf while the leaf was still on the stalk. Growers had approximately 65% of their crop still in the field when the hurricane hit. Very little tobacco was harvestable after the storm came through, and what was harvested had a tough time curing. Many tobacco growers were very disappointed as we had one of the better tobacco growing seasons ever.

Tobacco growers who had contracts with US Growers Direct, please know that Alliance One will honor those contracts beginning Sept. 19, 2011 for this year’s crop. But growers going to Alliance One receiving stations intending to honor USGD contracts will need to see the USGD agents, Roy Harrington in Wilson, Greg Ray in Louisburg, or Lewis Sowers in Goldsboro.


Our corn crop is in the process of being harvested, and should be completed before the end of September. I have heard several farmers who received timely rains report solid yields in their cornfields. Though the hurricane blew over many corn stalks, growers harvesting their corn should be able to pick through it, though taller stalks and heavier ears lodged more severely. Worst-case scenario, the grower will have to drive one way through the field to pick into lodged corn stalks, making harvesting

corn less efficient. Cleaning stalks and morning glories from corn headers will also be time consuming.

Hurricane Irene affected our cotton crop. Because of the strong winds and beating rain, the cotton lay over in the field and became entangled with other cotton plants. Now as the crop begins to cut out and mature, a few of the bolls are not yet opening up in a timely manner. Growers have the option to spray boll openers and defoliant agents to help clean their crop, but this year timing of these applicants is very critical. Growers may have to abandon top bolls in order to pick the crop; if they wait on those top bolls they risk the possibility of a boll rot or reduced lint quality. Growers may see as much as a 25% loss in their cotton fields as a result of Hurricane Irene.

Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potatoes came away from Hurricane Irene no worse for the wear, with the exception of a few places in fields that held water. Growers have begun mowing and harvesting fields that are ripe, and will continue to harvest through the end of October.


Soybeans should recover from this storm unscathed, with the exception of low-lying areas within fields that were flooded. Growers will begin harvesting early maturing soybeans in mid-October, and later maturing fields through November. Those that have soybeans should continue insect scouting until the pods are mature. We have seen a moderate level of green stink bugs in soybean fields. With soybeans sensitive to yield loss from stink bugs, it would be advantageous for growers to spray when thresholds are met. Soybeans are most sensitive to stink bug damage at the R4-R5 stage (when pods have elongated fully and seeds begin to set in the pods), but will be susceptible to stink bugs through the R7 (when leaves begin to change color) growth stage. Double-cropped beans will be the most sensitive in late September.


Our peanut crop enjoyed the soaking rain from the hurricane. Unfortunately, diseases like warm, wet conditions as well. With the rainfall we have seen from the hurricane, peanut growers tend to worry about diseases such as sclerotinia blight. With temperatures staying moderately warm through the month of September, diseases can still develop in peanut fields. Though growers will harvest peanuts soon, they should continue to monitor for diseases in peanut fields.

Considerations for Wheat Planting
Planting time for winter wheat is coming soon. With above average yields in our wheat crop last year, I suspect to see significant acreage of wheat planted again this year. As you consider planting wheat this fall, let us offer a few suggestions.
Planting date

The planting date for wheat is very critical. Plant too soon and you risk fall insect damage, early lodging from too much fall tiller growth, and early spring freeze damage to the seed head. Plant too late, and you risk losing yield due to lack of fall tiller growth. So the wheat farmer is left with a quandary—when is the ideal planting time for winter wheat? According to Dr. Randy Weitz, Small Grains Extension Specialist with NC State University, growers should shoot for a planting date around Oct. 20 for the Greene County area. This date coincides with harvesting cotton and early maturing soybeans, so growers are already busy at this time of year. But a delay in planting gives less time for tillers to grow before cold weather sets in. When planting dates are pushed back and cold, wet weather sets in, wheat development suffers. Up to 85% of the wheat’s yield is made up of tillers that form in the warm fall weather.

Avoid Insect Pressure

With the best time to plant wheat being a week or two before the first frost, insects will still be foraging for food. Insects will find the young wheat shoots a desirable food source. One way to avoid this insect pressure is to use treated seed. Gaucho XT or Cruiser/Dividend offer good insecticidal seed treatment options. These seed treatments offer a 19-day window of control, which should carry to first frost. It is critical to get the young wheat shoots off to a good and stress-free start. Using either of these seed treatments will typically increase yields by 10 bushels/acre.

Other concerns when planting wheat is

if you are going to no-till your wheat seed, it is a good idea to lean on planting 3-5 days early. “No-till tend to grow and tiller more slowly than when planted in conventionally tilled seedbeds,” says Weitz. Temperature means a lot to shoot and tiller growth, and a no-till seedbed is typically cooler than conventionally tilled land. Again, tiller growth will make or break your potential yield.

Many growers will plant a large amount of seed; however, growers can get good results by planting 101-129 pounds of seed per acre in conventionally tilled fields. If planting in a no-till situation, plant 120-155 pounds of seed per acre for best yield results. The reason for the increased rate is that seedbeds in no-till fields are cooler, and germination rates are reduced as a result of the cooler temperatures.
If you are planting wheat behind a tobacco crop, you may worry about residual herbicide activity reducing the growth rate of wheat. There are PHI restrictions of cotton defoliating agents as well that one needs to be concerned with when planting wheat behind cotton. For herbicide label restrictions related to these applications, read and follow your pesticide label.
We have many Small Grain Production Guides to further assist you as you make your wheat management decisions. Should you have any further questions regarding wheat planting dates, variety selection, or fertilizer applications, please call the extension office at 747-5831.
Cotton Defoliating
With the effects of Hurricane Irene, defoliating cotton this year could prove tricky for growers. The heavy rains and high winds beat our crop, causing branches to rest on the ground and interlock with other branches. “The cotton plants look like they were broadcast in the field now, we can’t tell where the row middles are,” said Brooks Edmonston, a grower in Maury. When defoliation begins, we may find that we need to do things a bit different this year.
One option that is available to cotton growers is the use of aerial applications. For this year only, NCDA &CS has lifted restrictions on aerial applications. As long as the label is followed and aerial applications are not directed onto a school or residential property, growers who wish to apply boll openers and defoliants by plane may do so, pursuant to 2 NCAC 9L.1006. This applies only to cotton fields east of I-95. This restriction expires October 31, 2011.
Harvest-aid application decisions are based on a number of variables including weather, crop maturity, and availability of equipment. When choosing the right time to apply defoliants to cotton, one measuring tool is to count the nodes above cracked boll. When the nodes above cracked boll is 4, growers can safely begin applying defoliants. However, cotton should not be defoliated more than 12 days before expected harvest. Plants that are defoliated and wait too long to be picked run the risk of regrowth and loss of lint quality from exposure to the weather.
This year it looks like growers will be picking rank cotton. Our summer temperatures have given the crop adequate heat units to mature, yet nitrogen is still available in many of these fields, helping to prolong growth of the cotton plants. Growers may have to decide if they want to pick the lower part of the plant and abandon the top unopened bolls, or to wait on the top bolls and risk losing the bottom to boll rot.
Growers may find that it takes two applications in order for upper and lower leaves to be removed. Though some labels suggest a higher rate in these conditions, one would also worry about these agents sticking to leaves rather than flowing down the plant. Growers will be able to tank mix boll opening agents with leaf drop materials for optimal harvest aid applications. Be sure to monitor temperatures, as these products lose their efficacy when temperatures dip below 60 degrees. Also make sure to add a COC if label suggests.
Upcoming Events

  • The Greene County Farmers’ Market continues through the fall season. Vendors will be selling locally grown produce and hand-made crafts from 8-12 noon each Saturday in the parking lot of the Greene County Office Complex, 229 Kingold Blvd Snow Hill.

  • The Greene County Sweet Potato Festival is scheduled for October 27-29. Come to honor a yearly tradition by tasting some foods made from sweet potatoes. Local musicians, animal exhibits, and carnival rides will also be there.

  • This fall, farmers will have the opportunity to once again vote on the Nickels for Know-How referendum. If renewed, this will provide three nickels from every ton of fertilizer they purchase to be used in research for NC farmers. Voting will take place November 16th at the Greene County Extension Office, Farm Service Agency, Maury Supply, and Walstonburg Milling Co. For more information about this referendum, please call the Extension office at (252) 747-5831.

  • Crop production meetings will take place in the winter. Information as of time and dates will be mailed at a later date.


Roy Thagard

Extension Agent



Farmers who wish to make their farm a Volunteer Ag District can now pick up an application at the Greene County Extension Office.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact Greene County Cooperative Extension.

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