Wet summer has caused a few farming problemsPublished 7:16pm Saturday, July 20, 2013
With an unusually wet June and July, Alabama farmers are dealing with planting delays and other crop problems. Specifically, row crops such as cotton, peanuts and soybeans have been negatively affected by excessive rainfall.
Jeff Helms, communications director for the Alabama Farmer’s Federation, said while the rain has presented a few challenges, state farmers would rather have too much rain than too little.
“As wet as it’s been, if it stops raining today and we don’t have rain for two or three weeks, our farmers would be in desperate need for rain again,” Helms said.
However, excessive rainfall has caused a few obstacles for planting second crops.
“[The rain] delayed harvest on wheat, and it prevented farmers from getting back in the field behind that wheat and planting a second crop, which is usually soybeans,” Helms said. “I have a friend who farms in North Alabama who told me they had a good bit of land they had intended to plant soy beans on, but they were just not going to be able to plant this year because the deadline for planting was a couple of weeks ago and it was so wet they couldn’t get in the field.”
For fruit and vegetable farmers, Helms said wet conditions have taken a toll in terms of getting crops to market before it spoils.
“A lot of water on vegetable crops like squash, cantaloupes and watermelons, can cause those crops to either rot or have a lot more problems with fungus related diseases,” Helms explained.
For crops such as peaches, blueberries and apples Helms said farmers often run into the problem of fruits growing too fast because of excessive water intake, which in turn causes them to crack open — making them susceptible to disease and undesirable to the customer.
Cotton, which usually grows best in hot, dry weather with occasional rain, may also experience adverse affects from increased rainfall.
“Cotton is most susceptible to disease and quality problems at the end of the season when the cotton actually opens and the lint is exposed to the elements,” Helms said. “If cotton gets rained on when it’s about ready to be harvested, you can see a significant deterioration in the quality of the cotton.”
However, heavy rains have proven beneficial for some Alabama farmers.
“There’s a lot of good to be said for the rain — it’s making everything grow really well,” Helms said, noting that beef cattle producers have been able to produce ample amounts of hay. “It’s a bit of a mixed bag for Alabama farmers.”
Most state farmers don’t have an established irrigation system, which is why heavy rains are more welcomed than drought, Helms explained. Alabama averages about 55 inches of rainfall a year, which is much more compared to other states in the Southeast.
“We’ve had a wet spring, but if we had two or three weeks with no rain and 95 to 100 degree temperatures, we could see farmers across the state really hurting,” Helms said. “Weather is something that’s always on the mind of farmers, and we’re trying to help them be able to address those issues and work with mother nature as much as we can to be able to make a crop. This just shows that farmers bear a lot of risk putting in a crop every year.”