With a new season bearing down, there are a few things growers can do to adapt their planting strategy to a new year. Keith Edimisten, a cotton specialist for N.C. State University, offers the following example for cotton growers.
"A lot of growers are going to have reduced cotton acres this year," he says. "I'd suggest growers make it a little easier on themselves this year by not being so stressed to get the crop in early. With fewer acres the cotton planting period doesn't have to start as early this year, and that will help them avoid some of the pressures of pests like thrips. The same is true with other pests that are associated with that cool part of the planting season.
"Another way to look at the same thing is like this," he continued. "When they are at their maximum capacity for cotton many growers are looking to start planting in the middle of April if it warms up enough, say April 20. But sometimes at the end of April or at the beginning of May a cold spell comes through. After that comes through we usually have a lot less thrips pressure. Since we don't have so much to plant, maybe we can avoid some of those cool snaps in our planting."
Phil McLain is the award winning operator of McLain Farms, in Statesville, North Carolina. He notes that farmers can fall into a rut when they repeat the same routine. He says it is important to avoid that scenario. "Attention to detail is very important," he says. "You know, everything is about the same each year. But attention to detail and going back a second time, or double checking a piece of equipment can make all the difference."
"Get things done when it needs to be done," says Ben Coston, General Fertilizer Equipment, Greensboro, North Carolina. "The problem is sometimes I don't know how you do that with the weather and other challenges."
Still, he emphasizes how important it is to find ways to accomplish it, recalling research done by N.C. State University crop scientist Ron Heiniger that demonstrated it.
"Dr. Heiniger had a program on the difference of planting dates on yields. It showed planting at the best time can really increase yields. Of course, you're guessing a bit on what the weather is going to be, but there are certainly some windows there can make a difference."