Dog-days Heat Wave

first_imgA mid-August heat wave across Georgia had humans, plants and animals all wilting. But theheat isn’t just uncomfortable. It can be dangerous. Farmers may be especially vulnerable to the heat. “Once the bolls fill out,” he said, “farmers want dry days to open the bolls and start harvestwithout boll rot setting in.” With humid, hot weather, there is still danger from mosquitoes and the encephalitis theycarry, Strickland said. “The big thing this year is taking care of insects that might transmitdisease,” he said. As farmers apply herbicides, they can hurt their crop, too. “The oils they apply with someherbicides can burn crop plants during hot days,” he said. Extension peanut scientist John Beasley said the heat is both good and bad. Some of the state’speanuts are maturing before they’ve set as good a crop as they could with milder weather, hesaid. As harvest time approaches, many crops need hot, dry days to finish maturing. But UGAscientists say most crops aren’t quite ready for that. In most cases, heat speeds maturation,sometimes before the farmer or the plant is ready. “They’re often out in the open, with no shade in sight to help keep them cool,” said ConnieCrawley, a nutrition and health specialist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.”Even staying in a shop with fans is better than in the open, full sun.” Animals, including pets, need water and shade, too. Extension veterinarian Jim Strickland saidmost confined livestock facilities have good cooling mechanisms designed into them. Mistersand fans help keep animals cool. And livestock in pastures, like outdoor pets, will usually findthe coolest spot they can on their own. Steve Brown, an extension cotton scientist, said most farmers are still two to three weeks awayfrom needing dry weather for cotton. Heat isn’t as much the problem as a lack of moisture in soybeans, said extension agronomistJohn Woodruff. “Some insects are thriving, though,” he said. “Farmers need to keep a closeeye out for soybean loopers.” The plants with ample moisture can withstand heat better than those that need water. But evenwith good moisture, high temperatures can speed evaporation, increasing the need for water. Grains agronomist Dewey Lee said the corn crop still needs rain in north Georgia. But in southGeorgia, farmers need dry weather to get the crop harvested. Overall, he said, the heat’s effectwon’t be as great on fields with adequate moisture. Woodruff said soybean loopers can move into a field and multiply fast, damaging the crop asthey go. But when the farm needs attention, it probably needs it now. That dilemma puts farmers atextra risk. The stress of farming is bad enough, and heat problems can add to it in many ways. For almost all Georgia crops, soil moisture is more important than air temperature. Rainfallacross south Georgia has been spotty at best. Ironically, heat doesn’t hurt weeds as much as it does crops. “They’re tough,” said extensionweed scientist Greg MacDonald.last_img read more