In this area of North Florida corn planters are usually rolling by the first week of March. I suspect there may be one or two going already. However, February weather has been a bit unnerving for most as they are ready to get the cropping season underway. I was a bit surprised when I looked at the rainfall for February, there were only 10 days of measurable rain in the month of February and about 3″ to 4.5″ depending on the location in this area. I’m fairly certain that of the other 18 days, not many were suitable for field work, especially where soils may be a little heavier.
Forecasts still don’t look promising, but farmers are using each available opportunity to apply burndown herbicides before planting corn. I recently took part in a farm tour hosted by University of Georgia Extension to several farms in Dooly County, GA. This tour, aligned with the Conservation Tillage Production Training Conference, was a good opportunity to see innovative practices in South Georgia.
One farmer’s precision banded sprayer for application of burndown herbicide was particularly interesting. The farmer indicated in past years, when dry weather struck before terminating cover crops, he would often lose soil moisture in the planting strip and have poor emergence or be forced to plant beyond his target date following additional rainfall. Therefore, he devised a system to terminate cover crops in the (future) planting strip using GPS Auto-steer technology. In this system th cover crop in row middles is allowed to grow several more weeks to gain the benefits of higher biomass. If conditions warrant, the farmer can still jump out and terminate the row middles, but this gives an opportunity to increase the biomass of cover crops for weed suppression and soil mulching with less risk. In South Georgia and North Florida soil moisture management in the Spring is often the difference in success and failure in rain-fed farming systems.