06/17/04 — Crops looking good

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Crops looking good

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on June 17, 2004 2:04 PM

Row crops in Wayne County are in good shape for the most part, although farmers are having some trouble with cucumbers.

Bob Pleasants, county extension agent, said farmers are harvesting wheat and are getting good yields. Many are harvesting between 50 to 60 bushels per acre and he has heard of yields of up to 80 bushels per acre. The heavy rain at times has slowed the process.

Cotton is growing faster than Pleasants has ever seen. He expects it to start blooming next week, which is a little earlier than normal. Farmers will also be harvesting tobacco before too long, and it looks good.

The corn is coming in well. The areas affected by heavy rain in early May have recovered. Soybeans also look good. Sweet potatoes are still being set in the fields, he said.

Some farmers are having more of a problem this year with cucumbers because of an airborne fungus.

Bruce Howell farms with his brother, Frank. They have a variety of crops all around the county including tobacco, cotton, soybeans, wheat and sweet potatoes. Howell said all of those crops are in good shape, but not cucumbers.

A fungus called downy mildew blew in during the warm spring and destroyed almost all of Howell's 190 acres of cucumbers. He said the fungus usually does not come up this far north, but was able to travel farther due to the warmer weather. He said that if the temperature stays around a certain degree, the fungus multiplies.

He will be able to salvage some cucumbers, but their quality will not be as good. His yields are down as much as 75 percent in some places. They have a contract with Mt. Olive pickle Co. and usually grow two crops per year and harvest between 100 to 400 bushels a year.

He said this is the biggest problem they have ever had with a fungus and they have also contended with heavy rains and some hail and wind damage.

The rain has prevented them from applying the last round of fertilizer to their cotton field and will delay harvesting tobacco. They recently had three inches of rain in the Mar Mac area. Howell said the northern part of the county has not been as wet as the southern part.

The N.C. Agriculture Statistics released crop-planting intentions for the 2004 season, which were based on a survey conducted in March.

Farmers are expected to plant 1.5 million acres of soybeans, which is an increase of 50,000 from last year. This would be the largest acreage planted in the state since 1989.

*Corn planting is expected to total 760,000 acres, which is up 20,000 acres.

*Sweet potatoes are expected to total 44,000 acres, which is up 1,000 acres.

*630,000 acres of wheat had been planted, which is up 100,000 acres.

*Cotton intentions are 790,000, which is down 20,000 acres and the fewest acres since 1998.

*153,000 acres of flue-cured tobacco are expected to be harvested, which is down 1,000 acres; 5,500 acres of burley tobacco are expected to be harvested, which is down 200 acres.

The next state acreage report will be released on June 30.