Last year’s poor weather conditions delayed El Campo area planting, but producers expect no hiccups for 2020’s early planting season, which begins at this week.
“I think we’re in good shape,” AgriLife Extension Agent Corrie Bowen said. “Pre-plant fertilizers are in the ground, ready to go.”
Corn will be the first crop of the year to be planted, traditionally followed by grain sorghum, rice, cotton and then soybeans. Corn in west Wharton County and in Jackson and Matagorda County has been planted as early as Valentine’s Day in previous years.
El Campo area corn and cotton producer Michael Watz expects to plant beginning next week, if the weather is good.
“(This year) is more in line with our normal planting times,” Watz said.
Local cattle producers battled 2019’s dry winter weather, but for crop producers, conditions worked in their favor.
“That did afford our producers the time and conditions to access the field and get the seedbed prepared (and) fertilized,” Bowen said.
Seed crops will likely be planted closer to mid-March or early April, when soil temperatures will be warmer.
Robert Little, of the El Campo Rice Farmers Co-op, expects rice planting to begin on time in mid-March or mid-April, barring bad weather.
“Most of the area had a good, dry fall,” Little said. “Our business (had) probably the best fall we’ve had in many, many years because of farmers being out working in the field.”
Along with the weather, farmers will be monitoring soil temperatures and soil moisture in upcoming weeks. The ideal soil temperature for corn planting is 55 degrees Fahrenheit at 9 a.m. and a two-inch depth for three days straight.
“Planting early is better than late, within reason,” Bowen said.
“For early plantings you run the risk of frost or lethal freeze events.”
Grain sorghum demands a 55 to 60 degree Fahrenheit average at a two-inch depth for five days. Cotton planting calls for a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit average at an eight-inch depth for 10 days.
Due to a rise in the rice market, Little expects to see more acres planted this year compared to last.
“Rice acres change so much these days because of price and weather,” Little said. “It’s a very expensive crop to grow.”