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Will farmers
still cash in?

Extent of damage to corn, wheat
crops from freeze not known

By Kristen Bishop 340-2443

Area corn and wheat farmers are anxiously waiting to see the effects of last weekend's unusual freeze.

Below-freezing temperatures Friday, Saturday and Sunday destroyed almost all fruit crops, but the extent of damage to corn and wheat isn't immediately known, said Regional Extension Agent Mark Hall.

"We can see that all the corn was damaged, but whether or not it has the ability to make a good crop can't be determined at this time," he said. "That really depends on the amount of rain we get and the remainder of the growing season."

Many area farmers are trying to cash in on high corn prices that are more than double last year's rate. According to Alabama Cooperative Extension System surveys, North Alabama farmers switched as much as 37 percent of last year's cotton acreage to corn.

Farmers whose corn crop was destroyed by the freeze have two options — shell out thousands of dollars for more corn seed to replant or switch back to cotton before it's too late.

Wes Isom of Isom's Orchard in Athens said most farmers are trying to remain optimistic, giving their corn crop a little time to recover.

Corn planted in early March that had already risen to six or more inches was hit the hardest, Isom said.

Isom plants mostly peaches but has a few acres devoted to corn. His corn crop had grown to about seven inches, but the cold weather destroyed it. He replanted his sweet-corn field Monday.

"Some farmers are giving it a day or two on their field corn because the seed is so expensive and there's a shortage of seed this year," said Isom. "But we had some that was eight inches tall, and the taller it is, the harder it is to survive a freeze like this."

Priceville farmer Ted Grantland said he waited until late March to plant corn. His crop had grown to about four inches before the freeze.

"Now, of course, it's on the ground," he said. "It won't straighten back up or anything, but it'll probably grow back up from the roots."

Hall said he was also optimistic about this year's corn yields.

"It'll be more prone to damage because of this weather, and it'll slow down a bit, but it'll be okay," he said.

However, he wasn't so optimistic about wheat.

"It's closer to harvest time for wheat, and it was a lot farther off the ground, so it took a lot more damage," he said. "But unlike other crops, you have to wait for a couple of weeks to be able to determine the full extent of that damage."

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