Sweet potatoes, cotton, peanuts and soybeans are at risk for lower yields and quality following last week’s torrential rains in eastern North Carolina.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler toured a wide portion of the region by air and ground Friday afternoon. He saw ponds where fields should be, which meant a lot of crops under water. “That much water will probably affect yields and quality because, for the most part, these crops are just beginning to be harvested,” Troxler said. “This storm was another reminder that no matter how much technology you have, farmers are still at the mercy of the weather.”
Going into last week, only 11 percent of the state’s cotton crop had been harvested, and 31 percent of the sweet potato crop had been dug. Harvest of peanuts and soybeans were just beginning.
“If sweet potatoes and peanuts stay in the ground and wet too long, there could be significant yield reductions,” Troxler said. “If sweet potatoes take on too much water, they will burst and won’t be marketable for the fresh market.”
The quality of the cotton crop also could suffer, Troxler said. He visited a cotton field in Washington County that had a foot of water in it.
“The farmer told me he was going to have a good yield before the storm hit,” Troxler said. “Now he doesn’t know when the water will drain and how soon he will be able to harvest. There’s a high water table in that area to begin with, and there’s just no place for the water to go in a hurry. If you can’t harvest cotton at the right time, quality will suffer, and that means a lower price for your crop.”
Troxler said it’s too early to put a dollar amount on crop damage. He encouraged farmers to document their damage and stay in contact with their county Cooperative Extension agent and U.S. Farm Service Agency office.
Troxler’s tour in a Civil Air Patrol Cessna took him over a good portion of eastern North Carolina, including Johnston, Sampson, Duplin, Lenoir, Wayne, Pasquotank, Washington, Beaufort and Hyde counties. The onset of darkness prevented him from seeing southeastern counties.
One positive sign Troxler saw was hog lagoons staying within their boundaries. “I think that’s a testament to the meticulous lagoon management practiced by farmers,” he said.