Field crops faring well this summer
Crop conditions are strong as Virginia farmers enter the second half of the summer growing season.
As of late June, topsoil moisture levels in Virginia fields are so high that no one in the state reported needing rain, according to the weekly crop report from the Virginia office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The report ranked all major field crops in fair to good condition.
“Our cotton crop looks good right now, we’re happy and we got some rain last night,” said Shelley Barlow, a Suffolk cotton grower and member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Cotton Advisory Committee.
“Crop conditions are great right now,” echoed William Gwaltney Jr., who raises peanuts in neighboring Isle of Wight County. “We had a great planting season; we’ve had good weed control; everything is right where it should be for the first week of July.”
Virginia farmers planted more cotton and peanuts this year than in the past, according to NASS’ June 30 acreage and grain stock report. Cotton plantings were estimated at 75,000 acres, up 2,000 acres from the previous year. Peanut plantings were estimated at 25,000 acres, up 4,000 from 2016.
“The price for cotton ran up pretty good the first few months of the year when people were making planting decisions,” Barlow said. “Our cotton acreage remains pretty much the same year to year, but there were some price incentives for others to plant a little more this year.”
Gwaltney added that “the carry-over stocks for peanuts is a whole lot lower than anticipated, so the price went up and demand went up and more peanuts were planted. The oldest economic rule in the book—supply and demand.” That’s good news for the entire Virginia peanut industry, he noted.
“We buy peanuts, shell peanuts and sell seed peanuts as well as grow them. The price is never as high as it should be, but it’s much better than it has been.”
While cotton and peanut acreage increased, corn and soybean plantings dropped by 10,000 acres each. Farmers planted 480,000 acres of corn and 600,000 acres of soybeans.
Other field crops saw minor changes from previous years. Burley and flue-cured tobacco growers both reduced their plantings by 100 acres from a year ago. Burley growers planted an estimated 1,100 acres, while flue-cured tobacco farmers put in an estimated 21,000 acres. Winter wheat plantings declined 20,000 acres for this growing season. This year’s wheat harvest is more than halfway complete, and that crop is also in good shape.
But there are always challenges in farming. If it’s not the weather or low prices, sometimes it’s a hungry herd of deer. Barlow said deer damage this year has been beyond anything she’s ever seen.
“There’s been incredible wildlife damage on the cotton, and it’s not just us. Homeowners around us say deer are eating plants they’ve never touched before,” she said.