Thomasville Times Enterprise

December 13, 2013

Local winter crops off to slow start

Staff report

THOMASVILLE — With the unusual summer Thomas County had this year, harvest and planting of winter crops is occurring somewhat later than usual.

Wheat is beginning to be planted even though cotton remains in the fields. The late harvesting has pushed back the planting of winter crops such as wheat. Wheat planting in south Georgia typically occurs between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15.

Andrew Sawyer, county agent for Thomas County, said, “Now, this year, we still had harvest going on late, so wheat is just now being planted. So, if growers plant wheat in December, that is kind of on the late side. They need to pick a variety that is early maturing and has low vernalization requirements.

Even though wheat is getting a late start, it will do well in the cooler climate.

“Because wheat is a cool season grass, it grows over the winter months, when temperatures are cooler. It needs certain cool hours before it can mature. That’s what vernalization is. It’s like peaches having chilling hours. The average time for planting wheat across the state is one week before first average frost date (for that area) and one week after,” said Sawyer.

As the crop begins to emerge from the soil, farmers need to be on the lookout for things that could damage the late crop. According to Sawyer, rye grass on field edges and black birds pulling up seedlings are a couple of the dangers wheat crops may face.

Other things that can be done to reduce injury to wheat is to establish a pattern for all post-emergence field traffic. Sawyer suggested setting up a tramline by closing one or more openings in the drill when planting or spraying herbicides to kill the rows that match the sprayer. He said that now would be the time to consider traffic patterns if planters choose to have them.

Wheat is generally harvested in May. It is unpredictable to know how well the crop will do because of uncontrollable factors.

“Just like this year with the rain,” Sawyer said, “right now, cotton and peanut yields are looking far better than anyone imagined. We may be just 10 percent down this year as opposed to last year, but if it had not stopped raining in August, we may have been down 40 percent.

“ Last year with wheat, the warm winter didn’t allow for much vernalization like we needed. That can affect us and the rain leaches out certain nutrients, so they were having to come back with more fertilizer.”