Planting Prep

A farmer prepares his field, northeast of El Campo along U.S. 59, Friday morning before planting season begins. Corn and grain sorghum producers are waiting to see if next week’s forecasted cold front will impact the 2021 planting season or if soil temperatures will be cold enough to begin planting their crops. Corn and grain sorghum are typically the first crops planted in the  Wharton County area, with seed going in the ground by mid to late February or early March.

Wharton County crop producers are keeping an eye on next week’s forecasted cold front as they prepare to begin the 2021 planting season.

Following a wet winter, area farmers are readying their fields, hoping the upcoming chilly weather doesn’t leave the ground too cold for seed.

“I do think that we’ll see seed in the ground in the month of February,” United Ag Grain Merchandiser Lindsey Bowers said.

“Although, the temperatures are supposed to drop pretty significantly next week, so that probably has got some people somewhat concerned and a little bit on hold.”

Compared to the more mild weather of this week, with high temperatures in the 70s and low temperatures in the upper 40s or low 50s, Wharton County is expected to see a temperature drop beginning Wednesday night, according to the Weather Channel. Thursday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 14 will see low temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s with high temperatures in the 40s.

Scattered thunderstorms are expected Thursday with a chance of showers Friday morning.

“Very cold, shallow air masses are extremely hard to forecast, especially this far out in time,” according to a press release from Wharton County Office of Emergency Management.

“The possibility exists for some sort of frozen precipitation in our area late next week.”

Typically, corn is the first crop of the year to be planted in the area, followed by grain sorghum. To plant corn and grain sorghum, “several days of warm weather” and a soil temperature of 50 degrees or higher is needed, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

“Different seeds have different temperatures that the ground needs to be at in order for it to sprout, or germinate,” Bowers said.

“It really depends on how cold it gets, but your ground temperatures do have to warm enough for the seed to be able to take root,” she added.

While some producers may start in mid to late February, a majority of the county’s farmers typically wait until early March to plant, Bowers said.

The peak planting season for corn in Texas is March 8 through May 7, according to state data. Grain sorghum follows with peak planting running March 11 through June 15. The peak planting dates for rice, soybeans and cotton begin March 23, 30 and April 8, respectively.

Several producers around El Campo have been working their fields last week and this week, getting ready to plant in case the forecasted weather doesn’t keep the ground too cold for seed.

“They’ve been doing a lot of spraying as well as fertilizing in the last week, getting ready to plant,” Bowers said.

The end of planting season in Wharton county varies for each crop. In order to get their crops insured against weather damage or falling market prices, producers are required to plant before specific deadlines.

“Different commodities have to be in by a certain time for you to be able to insure them,” Bowers said. “It really just depends on where you’re at.”

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