Winter crops keep fields active

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 19, 2007

VIDALIA — As the weather begins to cool and the summer crop harvest ends, local agriculturalists have little time to rest before it is time to plant their winter crops.

With cotton and soybeans harvested and the plants out of the ground, many farmers choose to plant winter crops to keep a livelihood year round, as well as to keep their fields active and prevent unnecessary erosion.

Winter crops for the smaller garden include onions, leeks, turnips, carrots and radishes, while field winter crops include wheat and rye.

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This winter has been predicted to be warmer and dryer than average because of a developing La Niña, a weather phenomenon in which cooler ocean surface temperatures affects rainfall in the northwestern United States — abnormally high — and the southeastern United States — abnormally low.

But that might not be all that bad as far as some crops are concerned, Vidalia farmer Tim Welch said.

“The drier weather will help the wheat,” he said. “Wheat doesn’t do well in wet conditions. It doesn’t need a lot of rain.”

But right at the start of the winter farming season, a little moisture will do some good, Welch said.

“We need rain right now just to get it (the wheat) up and to finish the stand out,” he said.

“After it gets cold the wheat will go dormant and will kind of just sit until it warms up next spring,” he said.

Keeping the wheat dormant instead of growing until spring is important for quality reasons, Welch said.

“We need some cold to keep the wheat from getting too big,” he said. “We need to keep it from getting too much size on it because if it’s grown past a certain point in the spring a late freeze could do some damage.”