06/19/09 — Rain came at right time for crops

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Rain came at right time for crops

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 19, 2009 1:46 PM

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Mike Smith and his niece, Morgan Smith, walk through rows of field corn Friday morning near Stomp Johnson produce stand on U.S. 13 North. Recent rainfall has been a boost to crops now in critical growth stages such as corn.

The storm clouds that lurked over much of the state last week dropped about an inch or more of rain across most of Wayne County, and it couldn't have come at a better time for farmers.

"Excellent, excellent, couldn't have been timed any more perfect," county extension agent Kevin Johnson said. "The crops really needed it. We were getting dry, we were getting really dry."

Corn suffered heavy losses in 2008 due to the drought, but the rain came at a critical time for this year's crop.

"It was perfect timing for the corn, we're getting to that critical stage where we have to have the moisture for the pollination," Johnson said.

Even though his corn is not at the tasseling stage, Delanor Daw said that the rain was more than welcome.

"I mean it helped, it was a blessing from the Lord is what we feel about it," he said.

The water perked up the tobacco and corn the Daw family grows in northeast Wayne. This growing season seems to have seen more rain than the previous one, so far, he said.

"Right now, up to now, with this rain we've got right now, it came at a great time," Daw said. "Our crops are looking good right now, looking real good."

Some fields near Eureka were damaged by hail earlier in the week, but the rain has not produced any flooding concerns in the area. The entire county got at least an inch of rain, with some farmers reporting closer to two inches, Johnson said.

And on the whole, things are looking up for this year's harvest.

"We're much better off than we were last year," Johnson said.

But now there is a new concern for crops: the heat. Soaring temperatures could affect plant pollination.

"If it's above 95 when pollinating, it can hurt the pollination process," Johnson said.

Most plants will even shut down entirely when the mercury rises, in order to protect themselves from damage, he said.

Another good rain within the next 10 days or so could help bring the temperature down and keep the crops growing well, but it's anyone's guess whether that will happen.

"Right now, the farmers are happy about the rainfall, but we're going to need more," he said. "There's no way to really tell."

The wheat crop was above average, and given current weather conditions, most farmers are likely going to be able to harvest 55 to 60 bushels per acre "across the board," Johnson said.

"They're not going to make a lot of money, but they can at least pay their bills," he said.

Without the rain, things might have looked a lot different for farmers. Input costs such as fuel and fertilizer are high, and the price of fuel continues to increase.

The tobacco crop looks good, as does corn, Johnson said, but he cautioned that a lot of things can happen between June and the end of the season.