Recent rains are keeping corn producers out of the field while Central and South Texas' optimal corn planting window is coming to a close, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.
Dr. Travis Miller of College Station, Extension agronomist, said wet fields have kept farmers from planting since the middle of February.
With most of Texas under constant rain last week, soils in Central Texas are still extremely wet.
According to Miller, little corn will be planted by March 15, the critical date for receiving the best yields. Corn is very sensitive to high nighttime temperatures at bloom time.
“Planting late could cut yields by 50 percent. It just doesn't pay to plant late because of that chance you'll run into high sterilizing temperatures.”
Producers who plant late could also acquire aflatoxin in their crop, said Dr. Steve Livingston of Corpus Christi, Extension agronomist.
“Aflatoxin could form if stress conditions prevail and Aspergillus flavus is present,” he said.
Miller believes the rain and wet fields will probably result in changes for many planting operations. “A lot of farmers bought seed in November. They'll have to return it and buy new seed; that means they'll have to use different herbicides and change their management plan for the rest of the season,” he said.
Constant rains caused land preparations to be put on hold as well.
“Many fields have not seen a tractor in months,” Miller said.
That sentiment is echoed from one Bell County corn producer. “I have 10 acres planted. Only 12,000 more to go,” quipped Jerrod Lancaster, a Temple resident.
According to Miller, good corn planting time still exists for most of the area, but farmers are losing possible yields every day they plant late. The optimal time for the Southeast district is six days from now, he said. “If we get five days of drying weather with wind and sunshine, producers may be able to plant shallow and beat the end cap.
“Weather is the variable farmers live and die by. If they don't get rain, they don't get a crop. If they get too much rain, they damage their crop by planting late. Every year is different and most farmers have learned to adapt to changing weather conditions and are quick to change plans,” Miller said
Wet fields are not only a problem in Central Texas, he said. “We have delayed planting all the way to Corpus Christi and North Texas.”
According to Livingston, the situation could be worse. He lists soybeans, sorghum and cotton as excellent alternative crops.
“China is increasing the amount of cotton they are going to import; therefore there is an economic demand. Soybeans are also great. They've reached an all-time high at $9.50 per bushel,” Livingston said. “I'm not saying everything is rosy, but we have reason to be very optimistic,” he said.
The sun has been shining over both Corpus Christi and Bryan, drying out the soil a bit. “We're excited about the possibility of making a good crop. With the abundant soil moisture that we have, paired with current high prices, we're looking forward to a good year,” Livingston said.
With the sun shining and warm temperatures, he speculates crops will “leap out of the ground!”