Did You Know? – Time to Start Planting

— Written By and last updated by

Jacob Morgan – Agricultural Agent – NCCE Jones County Center

We have a long way to go and a short time to get there. This is how the farmers around Jones County and eastern North Carolina feel these days. Preparing for this summers crops takes a lot of work and forethought. Some farmers do not have any wheat planted this winter, meaning decisions must be made whether to plant those fields in soybeans or maybe some other crop. Farmers should already have their soil sampling done, however, they still need to make decisions on what crops they are going to plant and what varieties they want to plant. There are literally hundreds of varieties for farmers to choose from; each one having unique characteristics making it a good or bad choice depending on where it is planted. The farmers must then place their orders for their chosen seed.

One issue that farmers have this year is the excess precipitation. This has created many problems, one of which was the many ruts you see in the fields left from harvesting last year’s crop. These ruts need to be leveled so that the up coming crop can be planted and tended without problems. The fields in Jones County have yet to dry out enough for the farmers to get back in the fields to fix the ruts left behind and it could be quite a while before they dry out enough.

Farmers are also busy fixing equipment. Tractors, like cars, need general maintenance work done to keep them running at their best. This saves the farmer valuable time later when they need to be in the field planting, fertilizing, spraying, etc. Farmers are also using this time to fix other pieces of equipment. A crop season takes a toll on disks, plows, planters, sprayers, harvesters and trucks. All these things are being looked over, checked out, fixed or upgraded during this “slow” period. Farmers also have meetings to attend. Winter is a busy time and there are plenty of meetings for farmers to learn and discuss the newest technologies with the agri-businesses, and learn the latest research developments made across a broad spectrum of crops at Cooperative Extension meetings.

Farmers must then begin to prepare their fields to be planted. There is a wide array of practices to prepare fields to be planted. From no-till to conventional tillage multiple times across a field there is some of everything in Jones County. One thing farmers are seeing more of a need for is pre-emergence and pre-plant incorporated herbicides. These herbicides are put out before planting to help eliminate weed competition with the crop. Some of these must be put out weeks ahead of planting the crop meaning the farmers are preparing to apply these products in the up coming weeks. Lime also needs to be put out soon to correct any pH problems with the soil. Putting out lime well ahead of the crop gives the lime time to react and raise the pH before planting. Some farmers will also be putting out slow release organic fertilizer in the form of turkey litter to feed their crops throughout the growing season.

After all of the pre-planting details and duties have been taken care of it will be time for the farmers to begin planting. Corn is the first field crop planted in Jones County. Corn will begin to be planted around the end of March if the fields are dry enough. Some growers will apply a starter fertilizer for the corn creating another element that must be prepared before planting can start. Planting corn will take some time depending on whether the equipment is functioning correctly and other variables. Farmers will then transition into planting cotton, soybeans, and maybe some peanuts. The whole time farmers must be prepared to take preventative and curative measures for both insect and weed pest in all their crops.

In the world of sports we know it is not the will to win that determines the winner, but it is the will to prepare that dictates the victor. The same is true in business and in farming; it is the preparation that determines the success of an individual. As you have seen, farmers in Jones County are preparing industriously during this “slow” time for this coming growing season to make it as successful as possible.

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