Rainy weather dampens farmers’ hopes

By CHRIS WILSON
Staff Writer

While April showers bring May flowers, May and June showers are bringing headaches and worry to area farmers.
Record rainfall has turned area vegetable gardens and row crops into total losses in some parts of Monroe County.
According to Monroe County area agent Charlie Stokes, the situation for area farmers has turned serious.
As far as corn is concerned, Stokes said the yield has been drastically reduced because of the frequent rainfall this summer.
“The corn is stunted from the wet weather,” Stokes said. “They have lost about 50 percent of yield in some places.”
Some area farmers are replanting some areas of their fields where their crops have died from standing water and wet soil conditions.
“The majority of the corn is yellow from the water-logged soils combined with the lack of nitrogen uptake,” Stokes said. “At least half the corn acreage has not been side-dressed with nitrogen. Much of the nitrogen in the other fields has been lost due to all the rain. Many fields will be plowed up and replanted in either soybeans, cotton or milo.”
Soybean farmers are experiencing the same problems with too much rainfall. “They still have about 50 percent of the crop that isn’t planted yet,” Stokes said. “Several thousand acres remain to be planted, but it’s just been too wet to get into the fields.”
Cotton crops in the county are also struggling with the excess moisture. “We are looking at one of our latest crops on record,” Stokes said. Farmers have been late in putting their cotton crop in. At the end of May or the first week of June about 85 percent of the area’s cotton was being planted. “It’s about a month behind.”
Stokes said cotton acreage will be reduced in this county this year, since some farmers are opting to put in soybeans or grain sorghum instead.
Greg Norton farms 1,025 acres of cotton in the Splunge community in northeast Monroe County and in Lamar County, AL.
Norton usually plants his cotton the first three weeks of May. But this year, the majority of his crop wasn’t planted until late May and early June because of the wet conditions. “The cotton planted during April and early May has also been delayed because of cool, wet May weather,” Norton said.
Norton said a late planted cotton crop is risky because of higher insect pressure and because of the need for it to have rainfall during the usually dry months of July and August.
“Then there is the worry of an early fall with below normal temperatures,” he said. “Cool weather can shut cotton down early and prevent a late crop from maturing.”
But Norton says its not all doom and gloom at his farm. “I feel we were very fortunate having to leave only 15 acres unplanted due to wet conditions. Also only five acres were replanted due to the heavy rain.”
“I am optimistic about this crop!” he said. “It’s probably two to three weeks behind, but with normal growing conditions, cotton can make up a lot of lost time with a warm fall growing season and adequate moisture. We can still make a good crop.”
The portion of the county that has had the most water damage to corn and soybean fields is in Prairie, southwest of Aberdeen. “It’s looking really serious,” Stokes said.
The normal amount of rainfall for Monroe County for the month of May is 5.27 inches. Stokes said there are parts of Monroe County that experienced 15 to 20 inches in May.
In June, the normal amount of rainfall for the county is 5.72 inches. But totals thus far outpace the norm by double and triple figures, depending on which part of the county you measure it.
Stacy Brown, county director of the Monroe County Extension Service, said vegetable and flower gardeners are also having a hard time because of the wet May and June. “There’s water logged soil in some places,” Brown said. Soils can actually sour from too much water.
But Brown said vegetable gardeners can get in and till the soil around their plants and make it dry out faster.
Some gardeners have lost their plants to the heavy rainfalls, having to replant as many as three times in hopes of a harvest.
Monroe County has a variety of soils, from the sandy prairie areas in the southern part of the county to the heavier clays in the northern part of the county. The Amory area is lower and has heavier soil that won’t tolerate as much rain. “Sandy soil drains better than clay,” Brown said.
Even if a gardeners vegetable plants have survived the onslaught of heavy rains in recent weeks, Brown said they may still suffer the effects. The wet conditions are an open invitation to more fungus and plant diseases than normal and also for more insects.
Plants that have wilted from the rains could still come back, Brown said, with the warmer, drier conditions. But if they’ve been in a severely stressed condition for too long, they may be history, he said. Succulent plants, especially, might not make it.
Excess rains also cause plants to mature on different dates and that makes insect control a more difficult task.
Brown said it’s still not too late for gardeners to consider replanting vegetables and ornamentals. The Monroe County Extension Office has a garden tabloid available that can guide gardeners in terms of figuring out maturation dates for different plants. It can help them know which plants could still have enough time to mature in the remaining season.
“And there can always be a fall garden,” Brown optimistically reminds gardeners.