07/09/13 — Heavy rains bogging down local farmers

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Heavy rains bogging down local farmers

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on July 9, 2013 1:46 PM

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Kevin Johnson

A fertilizer spreader truck is seen stuck in a muddy field near Pikeville on Monday. Heavy rains for the past several weeks have left many Wayne farmers unable to get into their fields to take care of their crops.

Excess rain has caused "target spots" and other diseases to infiltrate tobacco fields in many areas around Wayne County and has made harvesting crops difficult for farmers, agriculture experts say.

"It's really bad," said Kevin Johnson, County Extension director. "It's caused by a lot of moisture and cooler temps. All that makes it hard to dry out under the plant, so it's still wet, and the farmers can't treat (the tobacco plants) for disease. There's going to be profit lost because of the target spots. It makes it difficult to pay the bills."

Tobacco remains one of the chief cash crops in the eastern North Carolina.

Johnson said some fields have target spots as far as halfway up the plant. While every tobacco field isn't affected as adversely, nearly every farmer is having some type of trouble due to the wet weather over the past few weeks, with many producers unable to get their equipment into the muddy fields.

Additionally, there is still about 25 to 30 percent of the wheat crop left unharvested in the county, Johnson said.

"The wheat should have been picked three weeks ago," he said. "When the plants are left in the ground, the integrity of the plant deteriorates."

Johnson said the wheat crop is falling on the ground in some cases and grain in the tops of the plants has begun falling out, forcing farmers to rush to salvage what they can.

Showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast for Wayne County for the duration of the week.

"Farming is a weather-dependent gamble," Johnson said. "It's just like going to Vegas every year, but they do it with crops."

Despite the troubles caused by the wet weather, Johnson said the growing season is not yet lost and farmers are staying optimistic.

"It's a loss, but it's not a total loss," he said. "It may not be so bad. Tobacco can compensate if the weather dries out and grow heavier leaves at the top of the crop. But I would definitely say we've had some substantial wheat losses and a lower weight crop. Our potential isn't what it once was."