Rainy weather leads to wide range of crop conditions
Another rainy weekend at the end of October put some soybean producers even further behind in harvesting their crops. And while the rain from two tropical storm systems prevented drought problems, it’s been far too wet for many grain producers.
“I don’t think anyone alive has seen rainfall like we’ve had this year,” said Robert Harper, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grain marketing manager. “A couple of growers in Essex and Hanover counties reported more than 70 inches of rain in their rain gauges, and the year’s not over yet.
“The 2018 rainfall totals allowed some producers to grow the best crop they’ve ever grown,” Harper continued. “Others grew great crops, but there was significant damage. Others lost crops to all the rain.
“It’s definitely been hard on soybean quality,” he shared. “When soybeans get above 3 percent damage, they can’t be sold into the container export market. And those contracts are slightly more profitable.”
Soil moisture levels remain high in Virginia, according to a recent National Agricultural Statistics Service report. The National Weather Service reported that precipitation from Jan. 1 through the end of October was 17.92 inches above normal for Lynchburg, 9.42 inches higher than normal for Norfolk, 17.18 inches above normal for Richmond and 16.54 inches greater than average in Roanoke.
Virginia soybean growers typically plant a series of crops that mature at different times to spread out their risk and harvest efficiently, Harper said. This year early soybeans were hurt by the heavy rains of Hurricane Florence. In some cases, later beans are still in the field because it’s too wet for producers to get their combines into their fields.
“We’re still waiting to get going again after the rain last weekend,” Harper said. “A guy sent me a picture of his beans, but he had time to send it to me because his combine is bogged down and he’s waiting for a tractor to pull him out.”
If soybeans get too wet, they rot in the field, Harper explained. High winds from the remnants of Hurricane Michael pushed a lot of corn over, and growers must run their combines at a slow pace to salvage anything from those fields. Even if cornstalks remain upright after flooding, they’re ruined.
“I talked to a man in Central Virginia that lost at least 50 acres of corn in a low-lying field that was flooded out by Florence,” Harper said. “When the water rises, the ears get soaked, and it rots on the stalk. And if that crop floods, you never want to run it through a combine because all that dirt on the stalks can destroy your combine.”
Despite pockets of problems across the state, many field crop conditions remain decent. The recent crop report estimated 63 percent of cotton is good and 24 percent is fair, 56 percent of soybean crops are good and 25 percent fair, and 68 percent of the state’s pastureland was rated good to excellent.