07/25/05 — Rain helps, but heat and drought take toll on crops

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Rain helps, but heat and drought take toll on crops

By Turner Walston
Published in News on July 25, 2005 1:51 PM

Hot, dry weather has hurt crops across Wayne and surrounding counties but last week's rainfall helped ease the drought somewhat, say farmers, who are hoping for more showers this week.

Mike Jones, a farmer in the Nahunta community, said recent rains gave his fields a boost.

"We got the best rain we've had since we set the crop out," he said. "We got 2.3 inches on most of what we farm. If there's ever been a million-dollar rain, as some of the farmers say, that was it."

Jones said he has irrigated about three-fourths of his tobacco and that if temperatures cooled off little, the crop would fare all right. But cotton has been hurt by the lack of moisture.

"When it gets too hot and dry, the cotton plant will shed and bloom his fruit," he said, noting that cotton yields drop when the plants bloom too early.

"It had been a conversation piece, but it's getting serious now," Jones said. "When it's 96 to 100 degrees, and you've got land as dry as this sand is, you've got to have a 3 to 4 inch rain to wet it back."

C.W. Smith of Pricetown summed up the condition at his farm in two words.

"Dry and hot. They need some rain, bad. I don't know any other way to put it," he said.

Weekend rainfall helped, Smith said, but more rain is needed, and soon.

"We got between eight and nine-tenths inches of rain, which makes the crops look a whole lot better, but we've still had considerable damage due to the dry weather," he said. "Maybe it will hold us to the middle of the week, when we might get some more."

Smith said the intense heat doesn't allow the rain to soak into the soil as much.

"Crops are trying to grow, and the sun's taking moisture out too. It doesn't last long."

"Our cotton's putting bolls and squares on," Smith said, referring to the plants' development. "If we don't get some water, it's just going to fall out."

The dry weather has hurt pasture land along with field crops, he said.

Jones, Smith and farmers around the county will be scanning the skies daily, hoping for more rain. Forecasts call for scattered thunderstorms later in the week.

"You need one rain to kind of turn it around," Jones said, "and them some more to keep it going."