AUBURN, Ala.—Farming is not for the faint of heart. Many are the varying factors that play a part in good growing seasons and high yields. Producers deal with pest pressures, weed issues, too much—or not enough—rainfall and a plethora of variables on a daily basis during the growing season.
There are a number of crops grown between the northern and southernmost parts of the state. Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialists and agents keep a close eye on issues growers encounter, and do their best to offer research-based advice for problems in the field.
Although drought has plagued most of the state throughout the summer, Extension professionals say the fall crop outlook is positive over all.
North Alabama Fall Crop Outlook
North Alabama has suffered through extreme drought during the dog days of summer. Little rainfall and high temperatures have had producers and homeowners alike worrying about water.
Tyler Sandlin, an Extension agronomist in the Tennessee Valley area, said corn suffered early drought and heat stress and is the most impacted crop thus far with respect to drought. Corn harvest is underway, with dryland yields all over the board. Most are trending toward the lower end.
“Some cotton suffered early due to dry weather,” Sandlin said. “It is truly a mixed bag depending on the field you are standing in. Much of the crop rebounded due to later timely rainfall and looks really good. Several areas have excellent potential at this point. Fruit retention has been excellent this year.”
Some stressed fields that didn’t have much rainfall have been defoliated with other areas to follow soon. Some of the better cotton is still likely another two to four weeks away.
Soybean crops in North Alabama have suffered pest pressures. Much of the pressure has been attributed to a worm complex containing fall armyworms, soybean loopers, green cloverworms, and soybean podworms. Many of these issues have occurred in double crop soybeans following wheat. After treatment, most fields look respectable.
Central Alabama Fall Crop Outlook
Alabama Extension Entomologist, Dr. Ron Smith, has research trials planted in many parts of the state. He said after looking at cotton crops throughout Alabama, he is observing nice yields in many areas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service has a projected state cotton yield estimate to be 969 pounds of lint per acre.
“The lack of timely rainfall will impact yields in some areas, while much of the state has had timely rains and minimal pest pressures,” Smith said.
Regional Alabama Extension Agent, Christy Hicks, said the cotton crop is promising, the corn crop has had varied degrees of success.
“Some fields have no ear the drought was so extreme, while others seem to be OK,” Hicks said. “Folks in my area have started harvesting. It has taken a while for the moisture to go down due to humidity and recent rains.”
South Alabama Fall Crop Outlook
Kris Balkcom, an Alabama Extension Research Associate, said the peanut crop looks promising.
Balkcom, who is based in Headland, said even with rains from Hurricane Hermine, peanuts should be in good shape. Some producers in the Wiregrass area will begin harvest during the first full week in September. With minimal insect pressures and a small amount of diseases, producers are looking at a good crop.
“Early in the season, farmers were concerned about the prospects of little peanut storage at the end of the season,” Balkcom said. “But, because of the wet harvest in Argentina—one of the largest peanut exporters in the world—U.S. producers will be able to export to China.”
Brandon Dillard, an Alabama Extension Agronomist in the Wiregrass, said dryland corn is being harvested with yields as low as 40-60 bushels per acre and as high as 180-200 bushels per acre. Yields are varied based on how much rain fell, and when.
Dillard said cotton crops need rain, no matter the plant time.
“Cotton is suffering right now and needs the rain,” Dillard said. “The late-planted cotton definitely needs a rain, as we are in peak water demand right now. One to three scattered inches of rainfall followed by good weather would be ideal, but over all the crop looks really good.”