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Dealing with freezes, smoke in the air and planting
The Grass is Always Greener
Don GardnerColor

Farmers are looking at what to plant this year. The outlook for traditional agriculture is mixed.
Peanut contracts are expected to hover at around $400 per ton with little upward pressure on prices. Cotton prices have declined 25 percent since spring of last year. Part of the reason for that is China and other countries are stockpiling cotton. The 109 million bales of cotton now stored are almost the global annual demand. Captain Obvious expects there should be less cotton planted this year.
When the severe drought hit us from 2007-12, the Texas cattlemen and others sold their calves early and sold the momma cows, too, because they had nothing to feed them. Back in 2011, I warned you that a beef shortage was certain. If our cattlemen could survive the drought, they would surely flourish as beef prices increased. Well, we are there. We had over 596,000 head of cattle in Georgia in 2005. In January of last year, we had only 480,000 head, a decrease of almost 20 percent. This year, for the first time in 55 or 60 years, the United States will produce more pork than beef. Beef prices probably will remain steady while the other protein sources — poultry, pig and dairy production — are expected to increase. It will take years of good beef prices to rebuild America’s cattle herds
Locally, the weather over the past few weeks is making those who applied pre-emerge weed control on time look really smart. The seesaw of soil temperatures has been triggering flushes of weed seed to germinate. If you made a timely application to your lawn, you would not notice this, but slackers like me get to see new weeds popping up every week or so. As temperatures plunge, the germination trigger for weed seeds is reset.
The warm-up a few days later pulls the trigger, firing off germination of a new crop of weeds. If you have good turf density and an absence of weeds even though you did not apply pre-emerge herbicide, congratulations! You have achieved the ultimate goal of a turf so tight it will not abide a weed. Both of you can pat each other on the back. The category of things not to do to your lawn for the next 60 days includes: applying fertilizer; applying weed and feed; and applying atrazine to centipede.
This is another gentle reminder that you should expect to smell smoke from controlled burns, especially those on Fort Stewart. We can hear the thud of cannon fire from training exercises all the way down in Keller and watch as well as hear the helicopter air traffic — sometimes inaudible and sometimes low enough to think my back yard has been selected as an LZ. Watching a C-17 Globemaster hang seemingly motionless in the air as it lines up for a landing is a source of awe for me. I understand the physics of why it flies, but that does not detract from the magic of it. If smelling some smoke occasionally is all it costs me for the free air shows, burn on.
If you have any plants that were injured by the freezes last week, restrain yourself from whacking at them. We are past the average freeze dates for Bryan County, but the operative word is average. Just as many freezes happen after the average last freeze date as before. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Gardner is an ag and natural-resources agent for the University of Georgia’s Glynn County Extension.

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