Recent rain brings relief to crops

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012


COURTLAND—Although Flaggy Run Farms was recognized for its 2011 corn crop, what’s in store for 2012 depends on weather conditions.

This year, Jamie Lee of Flaggy Run Farms is irrigating half of his nearly 600 acres of corn.

“We had some rain and a couple of inches in the last 10 days. That certainly helped things out,” said Lee. “There were those two to three weeks of no rain and high temperatures. That definitely impacted the yield.”

He said the corn appears to have pollinated well.

“We just don’t know at this point what the yields will be,” Lee said.

Southampton County Extension Agent Chris Drake said last week’s rain was sufficient for the most part, but with the region’s sandy soils and high temperatures, farmers are seven days away from drought conditions in the critical summer months.

“The rain we received over the first three days of last week varied from totals of one inch or so up to over three inches in some locations in Southampton County,” Drake said. “The nature of these storms was highly erratic, and therefore they dumped a lot of rain in small areas and then dissipated. If you were lucky enough to be under one of these cells, you got some good rain. But, most areas received some rain over the course of Sunday through Wednesday and it soaked into the ground.”

He noted that the corn planted in late March was most likely past the point of gaining much yield from the rain, but the vast majority of corn was at a stage where grain fill and yield increase from this precipitation should occur.

“The temperatures have mediated, which will help the plants to become less stressed and in turn devote this moisture to filling out ears,” he said.

Some relief from the heat is anticipated by Thursday. A cool front is expected to lower temperatures from the high 90s to the mid- to upper 80s.

“There are chances for scattered rains, which would be very beneficial for cotton, peanuts and soybeans by week’s end,” said Drake. “Cotton is moving into a heavy blooming period, therefore moisture requirements will be high to ensure a good boll set.”

Peanuts are pegging and will begin to set pods, he noted. Soybeans are starting to form pods in some fields that were planted in late April or early May.

“Subsequently, we need a good widespread rainfall event this week to keep soil moisture at adequate levels to avoid plant stress,” Drake said.

In Isle of Wight County, Extension Agent Janet Spencer surveyed fields on Monday.

“The corn is looking pretty good, but not completely filled,” Spencer said. “Some ears are filled, others three-quarter. Not bad. A little rain would be good. It’s a critical time for rain on peanuts.”

In related matters, commodity prices are going up due to the loss of corn in the drought-stricken Midwest. Corn futures prices hit more than $7.60 per bushel as of Monday, Drake said.

“Our yields in this region have absolutely no effect on corn prices nationwide because our acreage in the state of Virginia is a blip on the radar compared to Corn Belt states like Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana,” he said.

“But, hopefully, our farmers can benefit from the higher commodity prices if we can manage to harvest a respectable crop in the 90- to 120-bushel-per-acre range.”