12/29/09 — Wet winter weather worrisome

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Wet winter weather worrisome

By Laura Collins
Published in News on December 29, 2009 1:46 PM


Gerald Ballance shows his son Bryant, 13, how to check soybeans for moisture in their field off Pikeville-Princeton Road on Monday, while Earl Willoughby drives a combine to harvest the beans. Many Wayne County area farmers still have beans unpicked, the result of two months of heavy rain that has prevented them from getting the heavy machinery into the field.

Nearly a foot of rain has fallen on Wayne County in the past two months, which has kept farmers from finishing up their 2009 harvesting.

And forecasters say they expect the winter to bring even more rain.

The recent wet spell has prevented many area farmers from picking their soybeans on time.

According to Kevin Johnson, field extension agent, most growers are done harvesting beans in November. But many have had trouble finding enough dry days to get their combines into the field and are still at it.

"The rainfall has been unbelievable," Johnson said. "I don't know if we've had above average rainfall, but the timing of it, this has been the first time in many years we've been picking after the new year," he said. "That's a big part of their farming. There's a lot of money still in the fields."

Johnson estimates there is about 30 percent of the crop that has yet to be harvested. Ideally, soybeans should only be about 13 percent moisture when they are picked, which requires a couple days of dry weather, sun and wind to get the beans at that moisture level. Farmers have the option to pick the soybeans at a higher moisture level, but the selling price will be less.

Gerald Ballance of Ballance Farms north of Goldsboro said his soybean crop has been good, but added that getting the beans out of the field has been tough.

"It's been slow getting it out because all the rain we're having," he said. "Usually we're through about December 10th, now it'll be January before we're done."

Ballance said there is still about one-third of his crop still in the field. On Monday evening, he estimated the moisture level to be around 17 percent.

"We need a good two weeks of good weather to pick these beans," he said. "Some farmers are done, but some were a little late getting into the fields and they're at a loss."

But two weeks of dry weather may not be in the offing, according to Brandon Locklear, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

"We're seeing above normal rainfall (in the region). For the most part we're seeing rainfall numbers from about 150 to 200 percent above for the year," he said. "In places where you're expecting to see 15 inches, we're seeing 30 inches. And in the last 90 days we're seeing about 5 to 10 inches above normal."

Locklear said that rather than having one large rain, the area has had several smaller rainfalls every two or three days. That is what has made it difficult for farmers, the inability to find a streak of dry days. And he added the trend is likely to continue.

"We've seen system after system that's bringing us the heavy rainfall and we're expecting it to continue," Locklear said. "We're not saying that there's not going to be a break, but we expect this to continue through the winter. As far as we can tell, we expect this to continue through February."