Wet weather threatens crops

Published 9:04 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

FRANKLIN—The region has seen more than its fair share of rain in recent months. Since August, storms have dumped inches of excess rain, and it will likely have negative impacts on certain crops.

“The primary result of the rain that we’ve had is that it’s extended our harvest season,” said Cyndi Estienne, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in the Greensville County/Emporia office. Since neither Southampton nor Isle of Wight has an extension agent, others, like Estienne, are working with farmers in the two counties.

“The rain will have a negative impact on the yield and quality of cotton and soybeans,” Estienne said.

Elaine Lidholm of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the department has been in contact with two of the three cotton gins in Southeastern Virginia, and there are still more than 4,000 acres of cotton to be harvested.

“There’s a lot of soybeans left to harvest,” she said. Lidholm said exact acreage amounts are hard to pin down because the region’s two largest counties — Isle of Wight and Southampton — don’t have extension agents.

Estienne said much of the soybean crop that is being harvested has high moisture content, and farmers have to incur extra costs to dry them out. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Virginia’s soybean yield reports “continue to be excellent,” but much of the soybean crop won’t be able to be harvested until the ground freezes solid.

Cotton and soybeans aren’t the only crops that could be negatively impacted by the wet weather.

“It’s delaying our wheat planting,” Estienne said. She estimates that up to 25 percent more wheat would’ve been planted by now if it hadn’t been for all of the rain. Some wheat that has already been planted may have to be replanted because some fields may have drowned out.

“The ideal time to plant wheat is over,” she said. According to the NASS, late wheat planting “may lead to uncertain results.”

While cotton, soybeans and wheat could be adversely affected by the wet weather, overall, 2009 has been a good year for crops.

“Our yields on most crops this year have been really good,” Estienne said. She added that it’s too early to tell what the financial impact of the excessive rains could be.

Dell Cotton, executive director of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association, said 2009 could turn out to be “one of the better years” in terms of peanut yield.

“Peanuts actually did very well,” he said. “We got all the peanuts out right before the rain got too bad.”