Heavy downpours put Alabama farming on hold … again

Heavy thunderstorms the week of April 28 brought near to a foot of rain to Alabama and stopped agriculture in the state. Farmers couldn’t get into fields to do anything.

Storms dumped more than a foot of rain in south Alabama and put Alabama farmer Bert Driskell at “a dead standstill again.”

Driskell, who farms in south Mobile County, says, “With these last two rain events we’ve gotten about 13 and a half inches of rain, and it all came so fast. We can’t get into the fields to do anything.”

Soaked soil has planters parked waiting for ground to dry out. Driskell usually is finished planting corn by now, but he currently has less than 50 percent in the ground. He had just fertilized his planted corn, so Driskell fears he may lose some of the expensive input costs invested in the crop. He’s also facing a time crunch to finish planting corn so he can move on to peanuts and cotton.

“We probably have about 20 percent of peanut crop planted, but this delay will tighten up the time we have to get the rest of it done,” Driskell said. “That makes it tough at harvest time, too, since we can’t spread out harvest over several weeks like we’d prefer.”

Sessions Farm, also in Grand Bay, is well into its spring vegetable season and began harvesting cabbage last week. However, some fields, including a large field of squash, were partially submerged Tuesday.

“Our vegetables have been taking a beating the past month with cold weather and now the rain,” Jeremy Sessions said. “I don’t think the crops are going to be nearly as good as we hoped, but you never can tell. We had to replant our peas because the flood last week rotted them out. It’s been brutal this year.”

Part of the sweet potato crop at Sirmon Farms in Baldwin County was washed out. Farmer Joel Sirmon said 10 acres were under up to a foot of water.

Story the same across the state

“This is the third real heavy rain we’ve had this year,” said Sirmon, who has only planted sweet potatoes and corn so far. “We’re supposed to be planting peanuts and cotton right now, but it’s too wet for that. You can’t get down. You’ve got to keep on going. You’ve got to have faith. This is how we make our living.”

The story is similar across south Alabama, from Washington County, where farmer Walt Richardson said he had 10 acres of corn underwater, to Henry County, where farmer Thomas Adams said the fields were very wet with standing water.

“Everything we’ve planted seems to be holding up well, but we keep getting farther behind,” said Adams, who is the Henry County Farmers Federation president. “We are blessed to have missed the high winds and tornadoes."

The news is better for Geneva County farmer Jimmy Royce Helms whose current crop rotation calls for 300 acres of peanuts, 150 acres of cotton and 50 acres of corn. The heavy rain washed out a few of his prepared terraces, but he had not planted any seed yet this season.

“We had the fields ready, but didn’t have anything in the ground,” Helms said. “We’re not suffering. It’ll be the middle of next week before we start planting.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Mobile received reports of more than 20 inches of rain during the April 29 storms. Officially, the Mobile Regional Airport reported a record 11.24 inches of rain for the day and monthly rainfall is almost 13 inches above normal.

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