Extension office notes: information on corn crops, peanut production and snake activity

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By Kaite Nichols
and Justin Miller
Special to the
Opelika Observer

Wiregrass corn
Expectations for higher-than-normal May temperatures have Wiregrass corn producers on edge as the spring growing season shapes up to be a dry one.
Brandon Dillard, an Alabama Extension regional agent of agronomic crops, said farmers in the area were ahead of the planting schedule earlier in the season.
“This was one of the best looking dryland corn crops I’ve seen in recent years,” Dillard said. “On May 19, the corn plants started wilting. With no real chance of rain in the forecast, producers are concerned about the future of the corn crop.”
The last rain in the area came through on May 12. Since then, no pop-up showers or rain chances have come through the area.
The Wiregrass area is generally cotton and peanut country. While there is cause for major concern if the corn doesn’t get rain soon, Dillard said a saving grace is the lower number of corn acreage in comparison to peanut and cotton acres.
“Producers with irrigated corn are also struggling,” Dillard said. “They’re spending money to irrigate a corn crop on their most productive land, but may not produce a high yield as expected due to anticipated 95 degree temperatures.”
Planting dates vary throughout the state, but Wiregrass farmers planted corn in mid-March. Dillard said some of the earliest planted corn is tasseling—a stage at which corn plants need ample amount of water.
Though it is not a common situation, Dillard said if record-high temperatures continue producers could be looking at a “scattered grain situation.”
This means the heat renders pollen nonviable. Without viable pollen, ears will not fully develop or fill out with kernels. In a worst-case scenario, producers could see losses of up to 90%.
Alabama Extension plant pathologist Dr. Austin Hagan, said producers have one less thing to worry about as foliar disease spread is suppressed by dry weather conditions.
Hope for peanuts and cotton
Although the corn is in dire straits, Dillard wants Wiregrass producers to know cotton and peanuts are in a growth stage that can withstand short-term drought scenarios.
“Water demand for cotton and peanuts is low right now,” Dillard said. “The young plants will be able to withstand drought without yield effects at this point.”
For more information, or assistance in the field, contact your regional Extension crops agent.
Snakes
As the weather gets warmer, snakes and other wildlife will be on the move. Many people will come across a non venomous snake at some point. Though they have many good qualities, non venomous snakes can still pose a health risk to people.
While they do not have venom, a bite from a non venomous snake can cause infections. If left untreated, these infections could cause serious health problems. Knowing basic information about non venomous snakes can help reduce your chance of being bitten.
Snakes are found just about anywhere. Sheds, barns, flower beds, gardens and wood piles are great places for them to hang out. Ironically, the greatest health risk non venomous snakes pose to humans has little to do with the snake at all. People trying to get away from non venomous snakes when they are frightened is a greater risk for injury than the snake itself.
Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said snakes like to stay in areas where they can find food and feel protected.
“Snakes are most likely to be found in areas that provide cover or shelter for them and their prey,” Armstrong said. “Removing these types of areas from around your house will help reduce, but not eliminate, the possibility of snakes around the home.”
When near these types of areas, be alert for snakes so they do not catch you by surprise. As a general rule, Armstrong said if you are in an area where snakes might be present, closed-toe shoes and long pants are a must.
In general snakes are not aggressive, but put in the right situation they can be.
“Overall, most snakes, regardless of species, are not aggressive. However, any snake, venomous or not, may be aggressive if cornered or picked up,” Armstrong said. “Some species tend to bite more readily than others, but there is great variation even within a species.”
Non-venomous snake bites can cause problems because of possible infection. Armstrong said that any time skin is opened, the risk of infection is there.
“All snakes have teeth so, they all have the potential to break the skin,” Armstrong said. “This introduces infection to the area.”
In the event of a person being bitten, Armstrong said that thoroughly washing the wound is usually enough. However, people should always watch the area for any signs of infection.
He said any wound, regardless of the source, should be monitored.
When a snake comes near a home, a general first reaction is to want to move the snake far away. Armstrong said that this is the main reason people are bitten by non venomous snakes.
“Most bites occur when people are handling snakes,” he said. “I recommend leaving them alone if they are not venomous.”
Armstrong also reminded people of picking up snakes.
“Some snakes bite, but others don’t,” he said. “It’s a chance you shouldn’t take. So, in the wild don’t pick ‘em up and you won’t make a big mistake.”
Find more information about snakes at Alabama Extension online.
For further information, contact your county extension office.

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