All week the temperature has hovered around 100 with the heat index hovering around 105. The forecast shows these temperatures are likely to persist for at least the next week. This heat, along with a lack of rain in many areas is really taking a toll on our crops. In the last week, we’ve seen corn rolled up and scorched, tobacco,cotton, and soybeans wilting, eggplant and tomato flowers aborting, and lots of blossom end rot on on a number of vegetable crops. Below are some photos from around the Pee Dee of some of the drought symptoms just mentioned.
Rolled up and scorched corn. From Hannah Mikell, Clarendon County Agronomy Agent.
Wilted tobacco. From Trish Dehond, Darlington County Agronomy Agent.
Blossom end rot on banana peppers and watermelon. From Horry County and Dillon County, respectively.
Blossom end rot is the result of a calcium deficiency in the plant. This does not necessarily mean there is a calcium deficiency in the soil. Calcium can only be taken up by the plant from the soil when moisture is available, therefore, water is most often the key to blossom end rot. A tip for avoiding blossom end rot is to water frequently enough that the soil around your plants doesn’t dry out in between waterings. Below is a photo of blossom end rot on tomato. From David Langston of Virginia Tech Extension
Now that we have a lot of corn tasseling, the heat can also interfere with pollination. Clemson Corn Specialist David Gunter says that temperatures above 95 can cause corn pollen to become sterile and can shut down the silks as well. If this happens, pollen may still come in contact with the silks, but pollination will not occur. Here are some silks that are trying to catch some pollen.
Growers with the ability to irrigate have a valuable tool at a time like this, while dryland growers are at the mercy of the weather. Much of Marion, Florence, Darlington, and Lee Counties got a good rain yesterday afternoon (18th) for the first time in a few weeks. This will provide some relief for a little while, though more rainfall will be needed to keep up with the amount of water that the crops are transpiring in the 100 degree heat over the next week.