late October frosts damage NorthCarolina crops

LATE-PLANTED, double-crop soybeans needed a late frost, but got a double dose in late October in the Upper Southeast.

Late October frosts deal another blow to North Carolina crops

• Late planted sorghum and soybeans hammered by frosts. • Shallow roots left grain crops vulnerable to late seaon drought. • Hay, tobacco and other crops also hurt by ongoing weather issues.

Late planted soybeans and grain sorghum have taken two successive weekend shots of cold weather, including heavy, killing frosts in many areas of the Upper Southeast.

The result is predictable, ultra-late planted grain yield is almost certain to be well below average for the region.

The problems began with heavy rainfall and long periods of cool, cloudy and damp weather, dating back to May. The rainfall never quit from early May until August and then plants with very shallow root systems — from all the rain — often became drought stressed as rainy weather turned to long stretches of dry weather.

The combination of weather factors in much of the Carolinas and the southeastern areas of Virginia will likely take a heavy toll on all crops, but especially vulnerable are soybeans and grain sorghum planted in July, and in some extreme cases in August.

Growers who planted a month to six weeks behind schedule because of wet ground at normal planting time for double-crop beans and sorghum knew they were rolling the dice. Hoping for a late frost and ideal harvest time conditions, they got dry conditions and a first frost that arrived just about average in most parts of the Upper Southeast.

Late-planted sorghum hit hard

The late October frosts were particularly devastating to late-planted sorghum, says North Carolina State Researcher Ron Heiniger. Many growers chose to plant sorghum in July over soybeans for a number of factors, but they were gambling on getting good September and October weather and getting a later than normal frost.

Unfortunately, Heiniger says in most areas of the state, August and September were dry and the late October frosts came with a number of insect pests that cause additional problems. In some areas of the Carolinas, kudzu bugs in combination with Asian Soybean Rust took a toll on soybean plants and foliage, virtually eliminating any hope of obtaining even a marginally profitable yield.

Other crops in the region suffered a similar fate. Dianne Davis, an Extension agent in Rutherford County, N.C., says hay production was not good at all this year.

Paul Westfall, an Extension agent in Granville County, N.C., says, “The recent drizzly period has helped green up the fall grass, but growth is well behind normal due to dry soil conditions. Livestock farmers are feeding hay as a supplement on many farms. Tobacco harvest is just about done.”

Though drought in the later parts of the 2013 season was a problem in many areas of the Upper Southeast, some counties experience continual rainfall and cool weather that created problems for early season through harvest.

Roy Thagard, an Extension agent in Greene County, N.C., says, “Rainy weather has made peanut and cotton harvesting impossible, and has taken away quality. Many cotton growers were waiting until the last possible moment to defoliate, but may have run through their window as cooler weather set in the last week October.”

There is some hope the corn crop that is now virtually all harvested will turn out better than average, but the outcome for most other crops is less optimistic. When the final tally comes in, anything close to an average yield will be a big surprise to most growers in the Upper Southeast.

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