Gardeners, farmers plod through soggy June

Jul. 05, 2013 @ 05:57 PM

It’s been wet and muddy on the farm. And it’s not been too pretty in some home gardens, either.
Denton dairy farmer Les Crouse has yet to plant all his corn and soybean crops.
“The wet weather is worse than the dry weather,” Crouse said Friday. “It has been hard to get out in the field, especially on the bottom land. I had no wheat planted, but I did get the barley in.”
Much of what Crouse harvests goes to feed his dairy herd.
“I hope to make my silage for the year, and I hope I do not have to buy grain,” Crouse said.
Across the state, June was unusually cool and wet. Rain totaled 8 inches for June as measured at Piedmont Triad International Airport, nearly 5 inches above normal. It is not unusual to see so much rain in June. In June 2006, rain totaled a record 10.5 inches.  The wet June boosted the 2013 accumulation to 27 inches, about 6 inches above normal. So far in July, rain is just slightly ahead of the average Triad July.
While too much rain is hurting some wheat farmers, the situation is good so far for corn, said Wick Wickliffe, director of the Guilford County office of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.
“Any of the grass crops appear to be happy on the surface,” Wickliffe said. “When it gets dry, this could set them back because the plants will have to grow their roots deeper.”
With so much water in the fields, some farmers used trenches for drainage, Wickliffe said. Flowing and ponding water has carried nitrogen away from tobacco fields where some leaf fungus has been reported. 
“The tobacco farmers may have to replace the lost nitrogen,” Wickliffe said.
Wet conditions have contributed to fungus blight on tomato and potato plants and fungus on some berry and grape plants in some home gardens. Meanwhile, the rains have accelerated early tomato production.
“This blight is something you usually do not see until late in the summer,”  Wickliffe said. “It is expensive to treat this with chemicals in a small garden. Using proper sanitation and air flow may help more. You may just have to enjoy the tomatoes you get and count on the local farmers to bring out more.”
Some experts say growing and harvesting will be at least three weeks later than normal and yields will suffer.
“That’s hard to say for sure now,” Wickliffe said. “It is supposed to dry out and some crops will suffer. They will put out new roots, and that could delay the crops. We can make up for a lot of this damage.”
Rain remains in the forecast through Tuesday. If conditions get too dry, many farmers like Crouse will have wetter land near streams and ponds to rely on.
“It is hard to see now how much the wet weather will hurt us,” Crouse said.



Wet: Forty-three percent of the land in the Piedmont is wetter than ideal, the N.C. Department of Agriculture reports.

Cool: Temperatures averaged just less than 1 degree below normal during June.