Southampton corn crop loss estimated at $3.35M

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FRANKLIN—In Southampton County, 70 percent of the corn harvest is expected to be a loss when compared to what the average yield for the crop should be. That loss equals $3.35 million at current market values.

“We had the drought since early June until now, and during the critical stages of the corn grain fill, we just didn’t have the rain,” said Neil Clark, the interim Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent for Southampton County. “Right now it’s not going to respond. The drought conditions of the past few months necessitate the call for a disaster declaration.”

Some farmers in Southampton had insurance on their corn crop. Others “are going to see if they can salvage some as feed for livestock,” Clark said.

Showers this week could help with some crops that are still growing.

Clark said the county’s peanut, cotton and soybeans crops have all been adversely affected by the drought.

“They’ve been lagging behind quite a bit,” Clark said. “One of the indicators for peanuts is that the rows should meet in the middle around the Fourth of July. We’re two weeks later and they’re probably still about a foot apart in most of the fields that I’ve seen.”

Clark added that this was the time of year that peanut plants start to put down their pegs, which mature into peanut pods.

“The recent moisture will help that process as well,” Clark said.

Trace amounts of rainfall have been recorded so far this month. According to Clark, 0.64 inches of rain fell in Waverly on July 13, and 0.55 inches fell there on Monday. Meanwhile, Capron reported 0.75 inches of rain on July 17, and 0.1 inches on Monday.

“Monday’s rain is definitely going to help, but it still seems spotty around the region,” Clark said. “I think some areas still haven’t gotten a drop. This rainfall definitely helps the peanuts and beans that are struggling along. Cotton is generally the most durable, though it’s spent most of the last week with the leaves curled.”

Janet Spencer, extension agent for Isle of Wight County, said she didn’t think Monday’s rain amounted to much in that county.

“I think most parts of Isle of Wight County only received a brief shower yesterday,” Spencer said Tuesday. “While it would seem that even a small bit of rain would help, the problem is that the ground was already so hot from the heat we have had. Most of the rain that fell probably evaporated off of the ground and wasn’t that beneficial to crops.”

But Clark and Spencer agreed that any rain now was too late for the corn crop.

Spencer said the assessment process had not started in Isle of Wight yet, but added that she predicted corn crop losses there “will be somewhere along the lines of what Southampton is seeing.”

Clark cautioned that other crops were in jeopardy because of the drought.

“While corn is at the point that losses are quantifiable and irrecoverable, other crops have or are in jeopardy,” Clark said in a written statement. “Pastureland is in such a poor condition that farmers are culling livestock due to an inability to feed. Pasture losses on 8,546 acres are estimated at 60 percent, or $354,800.”

Other crops would benefit from rain in late July and early August.

“It’s not too late,” Spencer said. “Three days of a good, soaking rain would be most beneficial, but even an inch of rain would help a great deal. Right now the cotton is starting to flower. When it starts to flower and produce the boll that’s a critical period. That’s when it really absolutely has to have water. So rain within the next week or two wouldn’t be too late for those crops.”

She added that soybeans, especially late-planted soybeans, had more time for rain.

“They haven’t reached the flowering stage yet,” Spencer said. “They could wait a little bit longer for some rain.”

The Weather Channel and its website,, are predicting a high of 100 degrees in Franklin today, July 21, with a 30 percent chance of showers. The high will hit 97 degrees on Thursday, July 22; 102 Friday, July 23; and 101 Saturday, July 24, as the chance of rain hovers between 10 and 20 percent.

According to the National Weather Service, .11 inches of rain fell in Suffolk on Monday, while .16 inches fell at the NWS office in Wakefield. An NWS meteorologist said Tuesday that Suffolk has had 1.94 inches of rain so far in July, compared to 0.94 inches in Wakefield.

The meteorologist added that Monday’s rain meant Suffolk was now about a half inch below normal for July, but Wakefield was an inch and a half lower.