Heavy rainfall virtually halts fieldwork, damages some Va. crops

RICHMOND—Although Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Virginia “dodged a bullet” with Hurricane Joaquin, farmers still got hit with crop damage.

Above-average rainfall the last week of September through Oct. 4 prevented harvest activity and potentially damaged soybeans, cotton, peanuts and tobacco.

“The consensus from the farmers I’ve talked to is that they’re thankful it wasn’t worse,” said Robert Harper, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grain manager. “However, soybean growers have suffered from the wet fields. When soybeans are ready to harvest, they need to be harvested right away. Every day they’re left in the field once they are ripe—even under ideal weather conditions—the quality has the potential to decline.”

While the majority of the state’s corn crop already had been harvested, the portion that was left in the fields potentially could suffer some damage, Harper said.

Field activities were limited, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Services crop condition report for Virginia. Virginia Cooperative Extension agents reported anywhere from 2 inches of rain in Frederick County to more than a foot of rain in Grayson County. Many areas received at least 3 inches of rain, NASS reported.

“There were no days this week suitable for field operations, as corn silage, hay and pumpkin harvests ground to a halt,” reported Kevin Spurlin, Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Grayson County.

In Franklin County, farmers saw rain for nine straight days, with some areas receiving more than 10 inches, reported Extension agent Cynthia Martel. “All field work will be stopped for a while.”

Harper said most grain farmers plan on a three-week harvest window for corn and soybeans. To have 10 days of that window filled with clouds, rain and wind puts them behind schedule. “They’re itching to get back into the fields,” he said.

Tobacco and soybean growers in Mecklenburg County reported some damage from extended wet conditions. And in Sussex County, heavy rains “put an end to fall harvest for now,” said Extension agent Kelvin Wells.

Virginia’s cotton farmers had harvested only about 2 percent of that crop. Heavy rain not only delays the harvest but can damage bolls, explained Spencer Neale, VFBF vice president of commodity marketing. “Half of the cotton crop from Virginia down into Georgia was adversely affected by this weather.”

Extension agents and Harper agreed that rain was needed, but not this much of a soaking. Virginia Beach agritourism pumpkin patches and corn mazes had to close because of the wet field conditions. Also, only about one-third of that region’s strawberries were planted before the rains hit, reported Extension agent Roy Flanagan.

Neale said crop producers in Southeast Virginia “were probably the hardest-hit, but it’s still too early to tell the exact extent of the damage.”

Media: Contact Harper at 804-290-1105 or Neale at 804-290-1156.

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