Wet summer a washout for some, helpful to others

thunderstormsIt’s been a much wetter summer than usual for many Virginia farmers, but not a record rainfall year.

That’s little comfort to Prince William-Fairfax Farm Bureau member Jay Yankey, who raises beef, grain, soybeans, sweet corn and vegetables in Fauquier and Prince William counties.

“In the last three weeks we’ve had between 12 and 16 inches of rain, depending on where you are. This is the wettest summer I can remember, and the old-timers up here say it’s the wettest they remember as well,” Yankey shared. “Our sweet corn has just been standing in saturated soil for three weeks or so now. And before that the plants were stunted because of wet weather back in June.”

A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report noted that there were fewer than three days suitable for field work last week because of standing water in fields statewide. Overall crop conditions are good, but some farming practices have been hampered. Hay cuttings have been reduced in many areas, and some field crops are struggling.

“I’ve been working hard to keep a halfway decent pumpkin crop,” Yankey explained. “I hope to have a good retail crop, but I don’t think we’ll have anything for wholesale. Normally we wholesale about half our pumpkins to other farm stands throughout Northern Virginia and some other smaller customers.”

He added that he hasn’t been able to get in his soybean fields to spray them. “I’ve seen a lot of alfalfa stands that have been really impacted. A lot of stuff was replanted this spring, and they pretty much haven’t done anything all summer, because they’ve been standing in water the whole season.”

In the farming community of Pungo in Virginia Beach, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Ray Flanagan said the local strawberry harvest ended OK even though it “was a muddy mess all season.” He added that the rain has affected vegetables and the local soybean crop because farmers can’t spray crop protectants on the fields.

“The worst trouble with the rain is that it is coming from a southerly direction so the tides have been higher. Especially in Pungo, that pushes the local water table even higher,” Flanagan said. “We had it so bad one farmer couldn’t drive anything but his tractor down the road; none of his trucks would have made it.”

As of Aug. 5 the USDA estimated that 72 percent of Virginia’s corn and 78 percent of the state’s soybean crops were in good to excellent condition. Seventy-four percent of peaches were rated high quality, and 91 percent of cotton was in good shape. About 55 percent of the hay crop was rated good.

Yankey said that, on the bright side, he has plenty of pasture for his cattle. “We’re an extremely diversified operation. We raise a variety of crops along with beef cattle for direct markets. It’s a year that I’m glad we’re not relying on one crop to make a living.”


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