09/12/13 — Wet summer helps corn, hurts county tobacco crop

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Wet summer helps corn, hurts county tobacco crop

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 12, 2013 1:46 PM

The same wet summer that fueled a bountiful corn crop had the opposite effect on tobacco as lower-stalk leaves burned up in fields too muddy for harvesters.

With 10,400 acres planted in tobacco, Wayne County is the third-largest tobacco-producing county in the country.

However, Wayne County field crop agent Tyler Whaley said, a lot of tobacco farmers are stripping their crop, which is expected to be short in poundage because of the wet weather.

But even with that loss, he said he has received positive reports of quality leaf receiving good prices at the receiving stations.

"The price per pound is good, but the pounds are down," he said. "Most have averaged $2 a pound. The shortage of tobacco has really created a demand."

Even with some tobacco remaining in the field, because of the crops' condition and the condition of the fields, Whaley said he doesn't expect to see the harvest holding out much longer.

"I don't expect to see any in October," he said.

Corn is a different story.

"Last year was not disastrous by any means," Cooperative Extension Director Kevin Johnson said. "But it doesn't compare to this year. We had a home run last year, but not a grand slam."

Last year was an overall good year for corn, tobacco, soybeans and wheat, he said.

Wayne County farmers planted approximately 21,500 acres in corn this year, about the same as last year.

Some farmers began harvesting as early as late July, but while fields remain wet in some areas of the county, they do not appear to be wet enough to cause any problems.

"As far as the harvest goes, (last) week and (this) week started it in full swing," Whaley said. "They want to get the crop out of the fields as quickly as possible since there remains the possibility of severe weather, including hurricanes."

Yields are very good, above what the county is accustomed to, he said.

"You can contribute that to the rainfall that we have had," Whaley said. "There was not a lot of stress during the year that the crop had to deal with."

Temperatures were cool enough on it to begin with, maybe a little too cool, he said. But the crop overcame that.

Also, the rain came during the critical stages of development, he said.

"However, the grain's moisture content of 19 to 21 percent is above what we would like to see," Whaley said. "We like it around 15.5 percent. The higher moisture content means that many farmers will run into more costs when they use drying machines to reduce the moisture."

Farmers who don't have access to the machines are allowing the crop to dry naturally, he said, explaining that most of the corn grown in Wayne County is sent to feed mills, which require a dryer product than consumers.

Growers are going to still realize an excellent yield, Whaley said.

Whaley said the highest reported yield he has heard of so far has been more than 200 bushels an acre in Duplin County. In Wayne County he has had heard reported yields of 175 to 180 bushels per acre.

The final countywide average could range anywhere between 175 and 190. Countywide last year, the harvest netted an average of 110 bushels an acre.

"Some growers made a good decision to sign contracts when the price ($7 to $8 per bushel) was good," Whaley said. "It has dropped before $5."

He explained the drop in price is because of the higher-than-expected yields, and that those few dollars difference can really begin to add up when a lot of acres are involved.

"Still, it will be a good year," he said.