published Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Spring planting: Warm weather crops on track despite some setbacks




Strawberries rest on a table at Mount Vernon Restaurant on Broad St. in Chattanooga in this file photo.
Strawberries rest on a table at Mount Vernon Restaurant on Broad St. in Chattanooga in this file photo.
Photo by Staff Report /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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    Chrissie Plew and Sara McIntyre wash vegetables at Crabtree Farms.
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Online

For more information on warm weather crops, planting and harvest times, visit www.utextenstion.tennessee.edu.

2014 Weather

84: Highest temperature this year, April 27

5: Lowest temperature this year, Jan. 30

15.27: Inches of rainfall since Jan. 1

18.60: Normal rainfall Jan. 1-April 30

27.48: Inches of rain last year, Jan. 1-April 30

Source: National Weather Service

Warm weather crops

Beans

Cantaloupe

Corn

Cucumber

Eggplant

Okra

Pea

Pepper

Potato

Pumpkin

Squash

Tomato

Watermelon

Source: University of Tennesse Agriculture Extension

Polk Glover can’t just tell you how Tennessee’s corn crops are going to do this year.

“But if you can tell me what the weather’s going to be, I can,” he said.

Glover is a retired corn farmer who now works for the Tennessee Corn Growers Association.

And what he does know right now is that farmers across the Sun Belt are planting corn. And if there’s enough rain this summer, those crops will do fine.

And if there isn’t enough, or there’s too much — well, they won’t.

Either way, we’ll know in about three months.

National Agricultural Statistics Service numbers show that about 53 percent of Tennessee corn crops were planted by late April. And that’s just above the 45 percent mark the state hit at this time last year.

And it’s over double the 19 percent which had been planted as of April 20.

Additionally, USDA numbers show that about 12 percent of Tennessee’s corn crops have emerged out of the ground.

It’s a hurry-up-and-wait game in some ways, say University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension agents around the southeast Tennessee area.

You want to get your corn in the ground and be able to harvest it first, which means you have corn to sell before everyone else.

But you don’t want to plant your corn before the last frost of the season. That could mean stunted growth and even loss of crops — and money.

“You’re fighting that frost, these last frosts like we just had” said J.C. Rains, a UT extension agent working out of Bledsoe County, referring to the last frost in mid-April.

In the wake of that frost, Creig Kimbro, Grundy County extension agent, reported to the NASS on April 20 that “We had some corn get burned by the freeze. It was up about four inches. We also had some reports of vegetables in greenhouses being killed by the freeze.”

This week, corn traded at about $5.12 a bushel. A bushel is 56 pounds. This time last year, corn was trading between $6 and $7 a bushel.

Torrential rains last summer drowned crops and led to pest problems, which contributed to the price hike.

Strawberries

And while corn farmers waited out the last bit of this year’s cold weather with bated breath, strawberry growers were burned by mid-April’s frost.

And so near the spring harvest, many strawberry plant blossoms — which eventually become berries — turned black and died.

“I do have some damage,” said Beverly Fazio, a local berry farmer, just afer the late-April frost. “More than I thought I had. I didn’t think I was going to, but I did.”

She wasn’t alone. In an April 20 NASS report, up to 40 percent of strawberry crops in Tennessee were reportedly decimated by the late frost.

In Rhea County, home of the two week-long Tennessee Strawberry Festival which officially kicked off last weekend, one of the most notable strawberry growers said in a recording that most of their berries won’t be available until the middle of this month.

At Tidwell’s Berry Farm, strawberry picking has already begun and the farm brags in its promotions that “it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful crop.”

Last week, some berries were already selling out. Tidwell’s strawberry crops are expected to peak in about two weeks.

Last year, there were 59,000 acres of strawberries planted nationwide. And USDA reports that the strawberry industry is a multibillion-dollar one.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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