Cool soils and wet conditions over the past few weeks have slowed Georgia’s 2014 corn planting start, but it was full-on at Raymond Thompson’s Seminole County farm near the Florida line March 14. Early planted seed gives Deep South corn growers a chance at premium prices for a mid-July corn harvest.
Corn planting in Seminole County started around March 1. By mid-March, 15 percent of Georgia’s corn is usually planted, but farmers and local Extension agents say the 2014 corn planting season is behind that typical pace but not by much.
Seedlings planted two weeks ago break through the ground in the area as soil temperatures stay more evenly in the 60-plus degree germination strike zone. Weather patterns of sunny warm days punctuated by a few good, and for the most part, welcomed rainy days helped the pace and set the tone.
The Southeast 2014 row crop planting season is on.
1. The driver
J.C. Chance checks the seed hopper before making another round on Raymond Thompson’s 3RT Farms in Seminole County, Ga.
2. The farmer
Seminole County, Ga., farmer Raymond Thompson, 62, at one of his corn fields being planted March 14. He owns and operates 3RT Thompson Farms with his brother, Rex.
Early planting, he said, puts him in position to take advantage of July harvest premium prices, which can range from 50 cents to a $1 higher. To help in his marketing, he invested over the years in more than 100,000 bushels of on-farm storage capacity. Says he’s already contracted 100,000 bushels for the 2014 marketing season.
3. The seed
Thompson grows 1,100 acres of corn, 1,000 peanuts and 2,200 of cotton in a four-year rotation on his farm: two years cotton, one year corn, to one year peanuts, using the rotation to keep disease and weed pressure in check as best he can. He double-crops soybeans behind his corn.
4. The rig
Eight-row rig set at 30-inch rows.
5. The view
J.C. Chance dials in the planter and sets off. He can get 80 acres planted per day.
6. The talk
Thompson, left, Chance, middle, speak with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension county coordinator Rome Ethredge.
7. The varieties
Thompson grows a half dozen hybrid varieties across his farm. Pioneer mostly, but after a bit of a disease problem last year, he has added Dekalb varieties to the mix this year.
8. The population
For his Pioneer varieties, Thompson shoots for 34,000 plants per acre. For his Dekalb varieties, he goes a bit higher, reaching 37,000 to 38,000 plans per acre.
9. The field
Thompson will drill in soybeans right behind his corn harvest. On average years, he can get 45 bushels to 50 bushels per acre on his soybeans. Last year, the soybeans didn’t do as well, reaching only 30 to 35 bushels per acre on late-season rainy, cooler weather.
10. The agent
UGA Extension agent Rome Ethredge fields a call in the field from a local grower. He fielded a dozen calls in about two hours March 14, a busy time as growers look for advice on wheat spring management and corn planting in the area.
11. The fence
The picket-fence stand starts on Mark Hanna’s Seminole County farm March 14. This corn was planted Feb. 28.
12. The stand
A seedling breaks through on Mark Hanna’s Seminole County farm on March 14. This corn was planted Feb. 28.
13. The crust
This corn was planted two weeks prior in good wet conditions, but warm, dry days has led to some soil crusting since then and that brings some concern. Seedlings can start to unfurl underground when fighting to break hard soil, and this can hurt the final stand. Growers are watching this condition and ready to apply a quick center pivot irrigation application to loosen things up as needed. So far, timely rains have helped.
14. The roots
Corn seedling roots already at work.
15. The wheat
Wheat in south Georgia is hitting its stride as warm weather and longer, sunnier days take hold in the region. This field in Seminole County is only six to seven weeks from harvest. “Wheat is jointing well and some early planted early varieties even have a few flag leaves emerging,” said Ethredge.
16. The head
Ethredge points out the wheat head forming.
17. The water
Center pivot makes a pass over south Georgia wheat on March 15.