January was the start of a new year and growers are already marking the beginning of a new growing season. We recently spoke with a number of farming experts at the North Carolina 24th Annual Joint Conference, Jan 17-18, in Durham, an annual meeting of associations covering a number of North Carolina's major cash crops, including small grains, corn, soybeans and cotton. Some of the experts at the conference, including some top growers, offered some growing resolutions to heed as we all head into a new year.
• Allan Baucom, owner/operator of A.L. Baucom Inc, Monroe, N.C.
"After a year it is easy for a farmer to forget all the little things," says Allan Baucom. "But pay attention to all the minute details. I find that if you take care of all the little things the big things have a way of taking care of themselves."
• Mac Harris, Cardinal Chemicals, New Bern, N.C.
"Start planting earlier for the coming year. Growers should order seeds and supplies earlier than they have in the past. It is tougher to get some supplies this year but if growers order early enough, more than likely they will be able to get what they need."
• Paul Murphy, small grains breeder at N.C. State University;
"The things that have dramatic impacts on our (wheat) yields are late spring freezes and prolonged wet cold falls that cause you to never get a really good stand. Wait for the recommended planting date for your area, of course, because you want to avoid pests like Hessian fly – but then take a look at the maturity of your varieties. For the late spring freezes it is a case of not planting early-heading varieties, early; that is, early-heading varieties are not the first varieties you should plant. Plant your later heading varieties first and your early heading varieties last."
• Phil Farmer, Syngenta consultant in Wilmington, N.C.
"Don't get in too big a hurry to fertilize wheat in the spring," Farmer says. "But growers need to give their wheat a little nitrogen in the fall at planting time, to get the plant off to a good start and develop a good root system. Make sure you have adequate nitrogen, potash and phosphorous in the fall. I've had several calls from growers this winter asking if they could go ahead and add some fertilizer to their wheat in January. Be careful about that for the same reason, because if you get it growing too soon and maturing too early, you can always get zapped by a frost in April."
• Dalton Williams, Cardinal Chemicals in Windsor, N.C.
"What I would suggest to growers is that when they are discussing inputs, they need to make sure they get the right input for the right situation, whether it be seed or chemicals. Spend a little extra time with suppliers and extension agents and make sure you are using the right product in the right place at the right time."