DECATUR, Alabama — Sporadic rainfall in recent weeks has set back area farmers with planting and fertilizing their crops, but they are expected to catch up when dryer conditions prevail.
Farmers wanting to plant corn, fertilize grazing grass for cattle and fertilize wheat fields have been hampered by recent rains, said Ronald Britnell, the Morgan County Extension Coordinator for the Alabama Co-operative Extension System.
"All of agriculture is about two to three weeks behind as far as row crops," Britnell said.
But, Britnell added, he expects farmers to "be planting 90 to nothing" once they can get their heavy machinery in the fields.
Mark Byrd, of Danville, said the colder-than-normal weather in late February and early March followed by rain has slowed field work and preparation work on his corn and wheat fields.
Byrd, 51, farms 500 acres of corn and 300 acres of wheat in and around Danville, Decatur, Mud Tavern and Falkville.
Typically, he would already have started planting corn and would have applied the second of two fertilizer applications to the wheat. Byrd said he is about four weeks behind schedule for the second fertilizer application.
"We haven't been able to get in the field in time," Byrd said.
Byrd is optimistic he will have a good corn crop. He said the most that recent weather conditions would reduce his corn harvest is no more than 10 percent.
"We'll get it there," he said, thinking ahead to harvesting corn from August to October.
Tyler Sandlin is responsible for six counties as a regional extension agent for row crops with the Extension System. He said the cooler weather initially hampered the fertilization of wheat, but that wheat fields "are in good shape now."
He said farmers were able to put out a lot of fertilizer last week.
Sandlin said corn planted early when the soil was wet and colder than normal might not grow well and that corn planted later in better conditions would catch up with the early planted corn.
"All in all, things look pretty good," Sandlin said.
Britnell said most of the area corn crop was planted this time last year.
"It'll all work out," he said. "The farmers will be putting in some long days if the soil dries up. We'll catch up quick. We could, and probably will, have a great year."
Soybean planting could begin late this month and last until June, and farmers will plant cotton in April and May, Sandlin said.
"Certainly, good weather will get us off to a good start, but it won't guarantee a good season," Sandlin said.
As of Sunday, the 4.47 inches of rain this month so far is just .05 more than normal. For the year, the area has received 12.19 inches of rain, which is almost 2 inches less than the normal of 13.82 inches.
Information from: The Decatur Daily, http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml