The summer of 2013 will be one many farmers will remember for a very long time. Record rainfall amounts caused great concern and resulted in catastrophic losses of farm income in many areas of the state. As the cool days of fall begin, now is a great time to look at the remaining jobs that need to be done around the farm.
Most of the corn and tobacco has now been harvested. Take a close look at your fields and try to determine which fields yielded better than expected, but especially those fields that did not yield as good as expected. If you did not do the harvesting, talk with the combine operator while things are still fresh on the memory chip in the brain and ask about weeds, lodging, poor stands, drowning or other things that may have led to poorer yields than anticipated.
As peanut, soybean, cotton and grain sorghum harvest get underway, do the same for each field you harvest. I suggest all growers keep a note pad in the combine or harvester and make notes as you harvest. Look for weedy areas, poorly drained areas that may have drowned, sandy spots in fields that may have nutritional problems, insect problems or other yield reducing factors. If you see spots or areas within a field that do not yield as well as the remainder of the field, consider taking “problem area” soil samples in those areas to determine if nutrient deficiency is the problem. Harvest time is also a great time to compare how different varieties of crops perform on your field conditions. A variety that performs well on one soil type may not do the same in your fields with your soil types.
As harvests begin to wind down, fall is an excellent time to clean up things around the farm and get ready for the next season. If you are a tobacco farmer and you grow your own greenhouse plants, look at your methods of tray sanitization. Many growers have used Methyl Bromide in the past to sterilize trays. It appears there will be no Methyl Bromide available for tray sanitization, so you should consider steaming trays to kill any disease organisms that may be present. If you had a disease problem in a greenhouse last year, do not use those trays unless you do a stellar job of sanitizing trays.
Have you pulled your soil samples from harvested fields? If not, get to work on that job now. Beginning this year, the NC Department of Agriculture Soil Lab will begin charging for all samples received between Thanksgiving and April 1. Pull samples as soon as you harvest a field and get them into the lab. I recommend all fields be sampled this year due to the excessive rainfall we received this past summer. Look closely at results to see if you need to add additional fertilizer for the next crop.
Many farmers will be glad to finalize the 2013 crop season. Getting an early start on the 2014 crop will be refreshing and get you off to a good start next year. Here is to hoping you all will have a great cropping season in 2014.
(Editor’s note: Wayne Batten is interim agriculture extension agent serving Sampson County through the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.)