Standing under a 10 foot X 10 foot awning at the recent Virginia Ag Expo with Virginia Tech Small Grains Specialist Wade Thomas and a dozen or so Virginia and North Carolina farmers and Extension agents, Mother Nature gave us an up close and personal look at this year’s rain-soaked landscape.
Not long into Wade’s presentation on producing high yielding corn, the rain began. Roughly an hour and a half and two inches later it stopped — for a while.
In that tiny corner of southeastern Virginia, only a few miles from the North Carolina border, rain was needed, but not that much.
The black soils rapidly turned into a quagmire and one had to wonder what impact another day of cool, cloudy and very wet weather would have on the quality and quantity of what looked like an excellent corn crop.
That scenario and worse has been repeated over and over from the peanut fields of Jackson County in the Florida Panhandle to the grain fields in the Northern Neck of Virginia.
Mother Nature has shown her rainy side, and in some instances it’s been a very gloomy story, but in others the difference between a little too much rain and historic flooding has been a few miles here or there.
Under the tent, Virginia Tech Extension Agent Chris Drake noted that his father had planted cotton three times — on the same ground this year. Drake, who helped keep our tent from collapsing by pushing water off the top with the mailing tube that once held Wade Thomason’s posters, said flooding could be catastrophic in one field and a few miles down the road, fields were wet, but workable.
So goes the historic plight of farmers — slaves to the weather, but ever-optimistic that tomorrow will be a better day.
For example, a virtual army of folks worked hard to produce the Virginia Ag Expo at Land of Promise Farms, a few miles outside Virginia Beach, Va. The rains came, but so did the farmers and agri-business leaders — lots of them. The rain turned fields and roads to a muddy mess, but the show went on, and it went on with style.
In some parts of the Southeast, the crop show simply couldn’t go on — too much rainfall and too many problems.
In talking about what has now been classified as a 100-year rainfall occurrence, Luray, S.C., farmer and friend Bud Bowers says it looks like they may lose as much as 500 acres of cotton to the rainfall.
In places like Cameron, S.C., more than 55 inches of rain fell from Jan. 1 to July 1. The 100-year average is 45 inches per year. After July 1, the rains still came — not as frequently nor as heavy as in May and June, but they came.
August ushered in some much needed sunshine and heat. As odd as that sounds for places like Hampton County, Va.; Beaufort County, N.C.; and virtually every county in the Low Country of South Carolina, that’s exactly what farmers needed to have any chance of salvaging enough of their crops to make it until next spring.
Though farmers will take the brunt of the soggy blow from Mother Nature, don’t forget about the agri-businesses that will suffer from shortfalls in quantity and quality of this year’s crop.
It is a daunting site to see dozens of pallets of soybean seed lined up and waiting to be shipped back to seed companies. In many cases in late July wheat was still in the fields in which double-crop beans were supposed to be planted.
The trickle-down effect of the excessive rainfall will be felt throughout the rural economies of the Southeast, but it won’t stifle the optimism of farmers. They will come back — they always do.
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