11/01/13 — Crop agent: Several local harvests will be taking a hard hit this season

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Crop agent: Several local harvests will be taking a hard hit this season

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on November 1, 2013 1:46 PM

An unusually cold and wet summer and late frost have hurt traditional Southern crops this year while the higher-than-average rain gave boosts to Wayne County's corn crop.

More specifically, the wet weather hurt tobacco, and the cold is expected to hurt cotton as farmers start to harvest their fields within the next few weeks.

Comparatively, last year was an overall good year for corn, tobacco, soybeans and wheat, said Tyler Whaley, Wayne County field crop agent.

"This year has really been a lot cooler. There wasn't any of those 100-plus degree days. You can see that reflected in a lot of our crops. They did not get enough heat units. Cotton needs heat units," Whaley said.

Combined with lower prices on crops all around, including dropping prices on cotton, some farmers will be dealing with a tight budget next year, Whaley said.

"Prices are down unfortunately. Right now, corn has dropped. Cotton has dropped last week. A lot of our market is due to speculation, USDA reports and conditions in other parts in the country," he said.

Besides cotton, farmers also will be harvesting soybeans and sorghum over the next few weeks. Despite the bad weather, Whaley indicated that crop yields won't be as bad as they could be.

"It'll be a decent crop, but it won't be one for the records," he said.

The soybean farmers who were hurt the worst are those who waited until the end of planting. Already skirting the edge by waiting so long, a late frost ended up hitting latecomers hard.

"This frost we had this last weekend pretty much did them in," Whaley said.

For farmers who planted earlier, the soybean and sorghum crops are expected to be average.

"If they were planted on time and were managed correctly, they'll be all right," he said.

Both tobacco and corn crops have already been harvested. Due to wet weather, tobacco poundage has been relatively low, but prices have been high because of demand.

Instead, corn was the crop to beat this year. The final countywide average ranged this year between 175 and 190 bushels per acre compared to last year's average harvest of 110 bushels an acre.

Wayne County farmers planted 21,500 acres of corn in 2013 -- about the same amount as 2012.

Even with some crops down and out and others doing better, farmers will keep on planting and harvesting no matter the weather or the prices.

"They'll continue to do what they've always done. The prices will come back," Whaley said.

In related news, farmers are going out into the fields over the next weeks to plant the winter wheat crop. Most of the county's wheat is in the north part of the county.

Whaley would also like to remind growers and the general public that the Wayne County extension center will have a fee on soil testing from Nov. 28 to March 31. The fee will be $4 per sample. There will be no fee during the summer months.

"Growers and residents need to be aware of the fee and plan accordingly," he said.