Farmers dealing with too much rain this summer
by David Atchison
The abundance of rainfall has affected farmers and their crops across the area.

“One man’s curse is another man’s blessing,” said Chip East, a regional Alabama Extension System agent for 13 counties, including Talladega County. “This time last year there was no hay in the barn and no grass in the fields. This year, we have grass in the fields but none in the barn.”

He said the quality of hay is deteriorating because farmers can’t cut the hay because of wet ground conditions.

“It will take a few days to dry out and to bail it,” East said.

He said this is the first rain-filled summer since 2005.

“I don’t ever remember it being this wet,” East said.

Bill Browning, the Talladega County executive director for the farm service agency of the USDA, said most farmers would agree they’d rather have too much rain than not enough.

“It’s a tough game to play, but you have to play whatever is thrown at you,” he said.

For the past several years, the area has experienced dry, hot weather.

“About this time last year, we had 100 degree temperatures and it was very dry,” said Mike Reeves, a regional Alabama Extension System agent, who oversees nine counties, including St. Clair County.

He said some crops have suffered damage because of too much rain.

“I added it up,” Browning said. “We’ve had 30 inches in the last four months; that’s a lot of rain. The average for this area is about 60 inches for the year.”

And the rain continues.

Browning said usually people see three-tenths or a half-inch of rain, not three inches at one time.

“I bet it rained four inches in Winterboro yesterday,” he said.

And the ground is already saturated.

“The water table is as full as it’s been in a long time,” Browning said.

Reeves said tomato and cantaloupes do not fair well in the soaking wet weather, especially with the amount of rain Alabama has received this year.

“It (the rain) doesn’t affect the watermelons as much,” he said.

East said some fruits are just rotting away, fruits like blackberries, and the quality of fruits like blueberries continue to decline with the continuous rainfall.

Reeves said there are some tomato losses, but tomato farmers plant sections of tomato crops in two-week increments, so only a portion of their crop would be lost to rain.

“A whole lot of rain is sometimes worse than just a little rain,” East said.

The wet, warm conditions in Alabama also make many fruits and vegetables more susceptible to disease.

Reeves said ripe fruits are more prone to disease and rotting, than fruits that are still green and are still in the early growing stages.

“Ripe fruits do not hold up as well as green fruits,” he said.

Reeves said farmers also have to worry about weed control with the above average rainfall.

He said many farmers have already lost one hay cutting because of the rain.

Browning said farmers are usually making their first cut in June and it’s almost the middle of July.

“I say about 5 percent of the wheat is still out there on the field,” Browning said. “That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a lot of money still out on the field.”

The rain also prevents farmers from planting a second crop, like soybeans, after their first harvest.

Browning said corn has faired well with the abundant rainfall, if farmers got their corn planted early, before the end of March.

“Corn is probably doing better than anything else,” he said.

Browning said cotton has probably taken the biggest hit.

“Cotton needs a lot of sunshine,” he said.

Browning said many farmers are hoping for some dry weather soon.

“There’s been a lot of rain,” he said. “We need some dry weather for folks to put up some hay.”

He said farmers need about four days of dry weather, and he thinks the weather will cooperate in the coming days.

“I think a lot of diesel fuel will get burned in the next 10 days,” he said.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com

© 2013