Weather observers offer glimmer of hope

While we shouldn’t be counting our chickens — or, in this case, measuring our rain gauges — perhaps we can at least take some comfort from the predictions of a panel of weather experts.

Experts with the Southeast Climate Consortium say that intermittent summer rains, which typically occur as temperatures rise with the onset of summer, soon will be moving into northern Florida and eventually into Alabama and Georgia. While the spotty rains associated with this effect are no panacea, experts say they will provide at least some measure of relief.

“There is some cause for optimism,” says Jim Novak, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System economist and Auburn University professor of agricultural economics, who, along with other economists, has used the consortium’s climate predictions to help farmers make business decisions related to crop insurance and other types of preventive planning.

“There is some hope the seasonal rain patterns are restoring themselves and that there may be some improvement in coming weeks.”

Moreover, an active tropical storm and hurricane season also has been projected. While this raises the specter of crop destruction, these types of precipitation also may offer some prospect for relief.

Alabama is certainly not alone in terms of crop damage stemming from the drought. Extreme drought has taken a toll on most crops throughout the tri-state region, the consortium reports. Crop emergence on non-irrigated land is poor, leading to poor stands. Corn planted in April and early May is most susceptible.

Dryness during flowering and pollination delays silking, reduces silk length and inhibits embryo development after pollination. Drought during grain filling increases leaf death, shortens the grain-filling period, increases lodging and lowers kernel weight.

Cotton and peanuts typically are most susceptible to drought-related losses in mid-July, particularly during and after blooming for cotton and during flowering for peanuts. The consortium reports these crops currently are under stress and that planting progress is below average.

Meanwhile, Novak says, prevented planting provisions may be available to Southeastern farmers under crop insurance policies for the following crops: canola, corn, cotton, grain sorghum, oats, onions, peanuts, popcorn, potatoes, rye, soybeans and wheat. Still, he says that producers should check to make sure. Novak also stresses that farmers should not plow down or undertake any similar actions related to insured crops without checking with the insurance company first.

“Taking such action potentially could void your contract,” Novak says.

“The safe bet always is to check with your insurance agent first.”

At this point, producers who have been prevented from planting or who have planted an insured crop damaged by the drought have several options.

In cases in which conditions have prevented planting by the late or final planting date, producers still can plant the intended crop and hope for the best.

Other options are to plant an alternative crop or to leave the acres idle.

To qualify for full insurance coverage, farmers must plant before the final planting day of the crop. After that date, coverage will be reduced to planting the original crop, Novak says.

Farmers who have been prevented from planting until after the final planting date and who choose not to plant the crop at all will receive a reduced percentage of the original guarantee.

“The amount of reduction will depend on the crop and any optional increased protection level you might have taken,” Novak says.

Likewise, farmers have several options if the original crop has been planted but is severely damaged.

“These include leaving the crop alone and seeing what follows, replanting the same crop or planting a different crop,” Novak says.

Farmers also can opt to abandon the acreage. Under these terms, farmers can plant a cover crop, although they will not be permitted to do anything with it, Novak says.

For acreage to be replanted with another crop, it first must be released by the insurance company. Otherwise, the planting will result in voiding of the insurance contract.

As always, Novak urges farmers to check with their insurers for the specific details of the crop provisions before taking any action.

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