Living and dying by summer rain

In terms of crops, the Tennessee Valley farm landscape is highly diverse, with more corn, soybeans and wheat visible than ever before. But while these crops differ in many ways, their agronomic and economic destinies are critically tied to one factor — rainfall.

And in this respect, things haven't changed, says Charles Burmester, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System agronomist. Whether they're farming cotton, corn or soybeans, Tennessee Valley growers are dealing with a typical north Alabama summer, “living and dying by summer showers,” he says.

So far, though, Burmester is optimistic. There are bright — better yet, green — spots visible on what was largely a drought-ravaged landscape last year.

Among many growers, wheat turned out to be an especially welcome surprise from previous years.

“Our wheat crop was excellent — I don't know if we've ever had a wheat crop this good,” said Burmester, who spoke to growers at the Precision Agriculture and Field Crops Day, held at Isbell Farms in Cherokee, Ala.

In many fields, soybeans are growing up in the wheat stubble of the previous winter's crop — a reflection of how eager many farmers are to capitalize on what are now two highly lucrative crops.

Equally encouraging, the corn crop appears to be as much as two weeks ahead of schedule, according to Burmester.

Cotton acreage, down significantly from previous years, while slightly behind schedule, is nonetheless faring well.

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