|Agri-AFC Agronomist Will Help Growers Meet Challenges|
Brad Meyer Introduces Himself
By Brad Meyer
Mike Malone, President and CEO of Agriliance-AFC, LLC, has asked me to introduce myself. I am Brad Meyer and I will be working as an agronomist for Agri-AFC. This position is not new to the Co-op system, but the focus has changed from that of the agronomists previously employed by Alabama Farmers Cooperative.
Over the past two years, agriculture in Alabama has begun some dramatic changes. With the emergence of bio-fuels in the nation’s economy and politics, the mixture of crops planted in the state have followed changing commodity prices. Growers now have the opportunity to capitalize on higher grain prices and diversify their operations. This strengthens crops both agronomically and economically, but brings new challenges to farmers. My job will be to assist the Co-ops by helping growers meet these challenges.
Changes in the crops planted in the state, changes in technologies available and the increasing emphasis on the use of seed as a vehicle for the delivery of technology all place a premium on seed variety information. Planting intentions for wheat are high in many counties and last year’s late freeze demonstrated the need to manage for the maturity of the varieties planted. The options available in corn hybrids in both germplasm and technology are overwhelming and the EPA extension of the Bollgard™ license in cotton will expire in 2009 leaving cotton growers with tough decisions on varieties and technology.
All of this, plus the many choices of insecticides, nematicides and fungicides available as seed treatments, make seed selection one of the major challenges growers will face in the next three years. Agri-AFC recognized this emerging need, so much of my effort over the next three years will be devoted to generating practical information on seed to help growers doing business with Quality Co-ops throughout the state.
I was an agronomist with Delta & Pine Land Company for nine years testing cotton and soybean varieties in North Alabama. I plan to add wheat and corn to the established testing program and extend it throughout the state.
Historically, wheat has been grown in Alabama mainly as a secondary crop. With the rise of prices and the yield potential present in many counties, wheat has found its way into the role of primary crop and should be managed accordingly. Careful consideration should be given to pre-plant decisions as much of the yield potential of the crop is set through management in the fall.
Supply of planting seed was cut short by the late freeze last spring in many of the production areas. When choosing a wheat variety, pay close attention to the maturity ratings provided by seed companies and adjust planting dates accordingly. In the northern part of the state where the risk of a late freeze is present each year, manage to avoid freeze damage by planting later maturing varieties first and earlier maturing varieties last.
The extended drought in much of the state over the past three years has left soil moisture at historic lows. As the harvest of summer crops begins to wind down, many growers are waiting for the opportunity to plant their wheat crop after a much needed rain. Don’t plant until enough rain has fallen to provide seedlings with sufficient moisture for an extended period. A small rain event may provide enough water to establish a stand, but will leave seedlings with superficial moisture only.
When deciding on planting method, consider maximum wheat yields start with even emergence. Staggered emergence results in plants that serve as weeds. Yield potential drops dramatically when emergence occurs over a seven-day period. The best way to assure even emergence is to drill into a firm seedbed at a uniform depth. Many of the management practices in wheat that maximize yields are similar to those Alabama growers practice in other crops. The only hurdle is to decide to use them.
As classing data begins to come in following a quick cotton harvest, insult is added to injury with deductions for short staple, low strength and micronaire. Given the drought and extreme heat in August, the short staple and low strength were no surprise, but the deduction for micronaire came on the low side. Typically, a hot, dry year results in deductions for high micronaire.
The growing season was a roller coaster ride for cotton in most of the state. It began with drought in May and June, then showed promise in July with good moisture in many places only to be hit hard in August. The reason for the low micronaire can be found in the hot, dry days of August and the crop stage at the time of the extremes.
Micronaire readings correlate to the thickness of cotton fibers. Staple length is set in the first 21 days following bloom, then
cotton plants use their carbohydrate supply to thicken fibers. Typically, bolls that reach five to six days old are not shed. When the extremes came in August, cotton plants had already set a large number of bolls in July.
At the time fibers should have been thickening, plants were forced by the heat to allocate carbohydrates across a lot of bolls. The extreme heat had the effect of making the plant jog in place while being on a low carbohydrate diet. The plant burned most of its energy just to stay alive. Coupled with the drought, this left very little for the plant to use to thicken the fibers, resulting in low micronaire.