As planting season gets under way, soil temperature is important


March 8, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 7, 2011 at 9:08 p.m.

As March gets under way, many farmers find themselves preparing the land and planting seeds in preparation for the 2011 growing season.

But not all seeds are ready to go into the ground just yet. Some require warmer soil temperatures.

Cotton, a warm weather crop, is especially sensitive to soil temperatures, said Dan Fromme, assistant professor and extension agronomist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Corpus Christi. Throughout germination and emergence, he said, it's important to make sure the seeds stay warm.

A good rule of thumb is to wait until the average soil temperature 8 inches down is 60 degrees for 10 days straight, Fromme said. For a poorer quality seed, wait until the average temperature is 70 degrees, he advised.

"Sometimes people get a little impatient and jump the gun," he said. "But that's when you'll get your best results."

In the Crossroads, producers appear to be waiting for those warmer temperatures, said Jeff Nunley, executive director of the South Texas Cotton and Grain Association.

Once the seeds do begin making it into the ground, however, Nunley said he expects to see more local cotton acreage than in the past.

"Personally, I think it will be up significantly because we're seeing such high prices with cotton," he said. "Everybody I've talked to says that."

Cotton isn't the only crop in the midst of planting season, however.

Most farmers in Victoria and farther south have already finished planting corn, Nunley said. Much of the region's grain sorghum is already in the ground, too.

Producers remain busy this time of the year, he said.

"It's fast and furious from mid-February through, I'd say, the first of April," Nunley explained. "It comes in spurts. But if you talked to any producers, I bet they'd tell you they'd be happy to put you to work."

As for how the growing season will fare, it's still too early to tell, he said. But signs such as rainfall indicate the Crossroads will do well.

"I just hope we keep getting favorable weather for the year," he said. "With the prices we've had, I think it will be a good year for producers."



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