It’s decision time for farmers. For one, how soon should they put the planter in the field? Also, with a new farm program signed into law, producers will soon face other important decisions, some of which could affect management for years to come.
Fortunately, they have help.
The South Texas Cotton & Grain Association, for instance, has done an outstanding job of working with the National Cotton Council to schedule a series of farm bill meetings in the area to provide information on the provisions of the new law. One is scheduled for 8:30 am, February 25th at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds Conference Center – Ballroom B in Robstown. It will be open to all producers, cotton industry firms, agri-businesses and agricultural lenders.
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As for sorghum planting decisions, farmers always perform a bit of a balancing act between getting it in soon enough to reduce the risk of midge and flowering under hotter conditions and late enough to keep cool air and soil temperatures from delaying growth. While the optimal soil temperature for sorghum germination is between 60 and 65 degrees, farmers also have to consider the potential for coastal storms. The minimal soil temperature for germination at planting depth is about 55 degrees. However, growers can expect slow growth and emergence at this temperature.
Check the forecast. The Crop-Weather Program for South Texas is an easy-to-use tool accessible via the internet at http://cwp.tamu.edu. This program provides information about weather conditions, crop growth and development, crop water use, and soil water storage and is maintained by Dr. Carlos Fernandez at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Corpus Christi. According to these stations, the current soil temperature had been hovering around 50 in Nueces County at a 3-inch depth, but quickly jumped into the 60-degree range on Monday.
Farmers use several “rules of thumb” when the planting window is open but sometimes they conflict, so there is no substitute of practical experience. Sorghum should be planted no earlier than two weeks after the average last spring freeze. However, if soil temperatures have not reached a five-day average of 60 degrees at planting depth, consider a delay. On the other hand, cooler soil temperatures that may delay or slow emergence might be the better option to minimize the combination of sorghum midge and hotter nighttime temperatures during flowering. The target flowering date for to minimize sorghum midge is May 26.