Heavy rains a mixed blessing for Virginia farmers

hurricaneFrequent, heavy storms between May 14 and May 20 delayed fieldwork on Virginia farms and had some impact on recently planted corn and soybeans and nearly mature small grains.

A May 21 crop progress and condition report for Virginia from the National Agricultural Statistics Service noted that farmers spent part of the week observing crops for disease and making plans for planting delayed by wet fields.

Robert Harper, grain manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said farmers from Culpeper to Lynchburg and east to the Chesapeake Bay reported 3 to 16 inches of rain over the previous week. In many places, he noted, “there’s water standing where it hasn’t been standing for a long time.”

Harper said producers he spoke with were “cautiously optimistic, looking forward to the sun coming out” but watching reports about a potential tropical weather system over the coming weekend. As for planting delays, “we were a little bit behind anyway from the cooler weather in early spring. And with the kind of equipment we have now, people can catch up really fast.”

According to NASS, as of May 20, 52 percent of topsoil and 61 percent of subsoil on the state’s farms had adequate moisture to sustain crops. Forty-six percent of the topsoil and 32 percent of subsoil had surplus moisture. Conditions were rated mostly good for barley, corn and winter wheat and fair or good for hay and pastureland.

Two percent of barley grown for grain had been harvested, 91 percent of the wheat crop had headed and 85 percent of corn had been planted.

In addition, producers had planted 59 percent of cotton, 50 percent of peanuts, 95 percent of summer potatoes and 26 percent of soybeans, according to NASS. Tobacco growers had transplanted 40 percent of burley and fire-cured tobacco and 60 percent of flue-cured tobacco.

Numerous Virginia Cooperative Extension agents and others who shared weather updates for the report indicated rain was needed. Doug Horn, an Extension agent in Rockingham County, said that area “got a month’s worth of rain in six days.” Mike Broaddus, an agent in Caroline and King George counties, noted that crops there “have vastly improved since last week’s rains.”

The rainfall was more than needed for other parts of the state. “Rain and ripe strawberries do not mix,” reported Roy Flanagan, an Extension agent in Virginia Beach. Agent Scott Reiter, who serves Prince George, Surry and Sussex counties, shared that standing water in crop fields “will mean that replanting will be needed in some areas. Corn, cotton, soybeans and peanuts are affected.”

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