08/13/13 — Hurried harvest: July rains put farmers behind, but showers needed

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Hurried harvest: July rains put farmers behind, but showers needed

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 13, 2013 1:46 PM

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Kenneth Williams operates a tobacco harvester in a field on Garner Chapel Road near the Wayne and Duplin county line. Farmers have been going full speed trying to catch up with many crops after a month's heavy rainfall.

July's heavy rainfall was nearly double the annual average and provided a mixed bag for Wayne County's farmers.

But even with all the rain that fell last month, it still wouldn't hurt to have some more in some parts of the county, said Tyler Whaley, Wayne County Extension Service field crop agent.

There were initial concerns that the county's tobacco crop would suffer greatly because of all of the rain. Tyler said he has seen places were the crop quality is down because of the wet weather.

"It won't be a bumper crop in terms of pounds, but I still think it will be a decent crop," he said.

Many tobacco farmers are now pushing to get their crop harvested and cured since the rain delayed them from getting into the fields.

"It has been a very unusual year," Whaley said. "Weather conditions certainly delayed double crop soybean and grain sorghum plantings as well as delayed the growth and development of most crops.

"Because of the difficulty to harvest wheat, some farmers have opted not to plant soybeans or grain sorghum due to likelihood of not producing enough yield to generate a return on their investment. As it gets later in the season, especially August, the chances of turning a profit are slim to none."

In some cases, the farmers are letting the land lay fallow instead of planting another crop, he said.

However, Whaley said he knew some farmers who were planting soybeans as late as Friday, even though there are doubts as to how profitable the crop will be.

"The first thing is we need some rain," he said. "We don't need for it to turn off dry. Currently, there is a lot of variability in terms of crop condition depending on the location in the county.

"As a whole, farmers believe that their crop mix is in decent shape considering the stress it has been under, but certainly not an outstanding one."

Most corn fields are doing well, Tyler said, since it is a plant that needs a lot of water to develop. But Tyler said he has seen some fields in the Mount Olive area that drowned because of the excessive rain.

"But it is still the best crop by far," he said. "Cotton is the worst, compared to tobacco and corn."

Cotton got off to slow start because of cool nights early in the season, he said. Also, lacking has been the 100 degree days.

"Cotton like warmer, drier weather," Tyler said.

The county's wheat crop looked "really good" prior to all of the rain, and should still be decent, he said.

In fact, Kenneth and Matt Sanderson of the Grantham community won the state's yield contest with 117.8 bushels per acre. The contest is sponsored by N.C. State University.

The county's average, historic rainfall total for July is 5.54 inches.

However, most if not all farmers received above-average rainfall during July, he said.

Some of the rainfall totals for the county are:

* Kelvin Norris farm, Princeton, 9.3 inches

* John McClenny farm, Smith Chapel, 7.7 inches

* Paul Daw, Patetown farm, 7.5 inches

* Goldsboro, 7.1 inches

* Craig West farm, Fremont, 6.9 inches

* Wayne County Executive Jetport, Pikeville, 6.7 inches

* Chad Sutton farm, Seven Springs, 5.6 inches.

If anyone has any additional rainfall totals and would like to add it to the monthly report should to call the Extension office at 919-731-1520 or email Whaley at tyler_whaley@ncsu.edu.