Rain: A blessing for some, curse for others

Oct. 06, 2013 @ 08:51 PM

Whether it’s pumpkins, corn or soybeans, the effect of the wet summer of 2013 still can be seen in groceries and the markets.
One of the most popular fall crops is pumpkins. Like other crops, what you see depends on how farmers handled growing conditions, said Wick Wickliffe, director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Guilford County.
“The crops were impacted by rain,” Wickliffe said. “Farmers who had irrigation as things got dry here lately could have better pumpkins. Some of them got mildew earlier because there was too much rain.”
Rains accelerated early tomato growth and other produce was hit hard by the damp conditions earlier in the season.
“I went to one field for a tomato tasting where part of the field was horrible,” Wickliffe said. “We did not have enough sunshine earlier in the year to get good early production.”
Wet conditions contributed to fungus blight on tomato and potato plants and fungus on some berry and grape plants in some home gardens. 
Through Sept. 29, rainfall in the Greensboro area totaled 40.5 inches, nearly 7 inches above normal.
Milder and wetter weather was in general good for corn and hay this season.  
“It all depends on where you were,” Wickliffe said. “Farmers who had crops on wetter ground did not have yields as good.”
• Corn: North Carolina produces 1 percent of the total U.S. field corn crop and 2 percent of the sweet corn. Most Piedmont farmers grow silage corn for livestock. Guilford and Randolph are leading Triad silage producers.
Statewide, corn production for grain is expected to be 21 percent above normal, or about 116 million bushels, according to the latest USDA estimates. Rains in May and July helped wipe out a slow start from a dry winter across the state. “Wheat was a disaster for the most part,” Wickliffe said.
• Soybeans: Because of the rains, many farmers planted soybeans late. “The jury is still out on soybeans,” Wickliffe said. The USDA estimate is for a 23 percent drop to 47 million bushels over the same number of acres planted in 2012.
• Tobacco: Rains flooded some tobacco fields earlier in the season. Flowing and ponding water carried nitrogen away from tobacco fields where some leaf fungus was reported. Prices should be high this year because it will be a light crop, Wickliffe said. Production is expected to be down 10 percent for flue-cured tobacco, according to the USDA, to 340 million pounds, even as acreage increased by 6,000 acres statewide.


Weather

Rains: The Triad rain total remains nearly 7 inches above normal through Sept. 30. 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.

Crops: A wet summer helped hay and corn production, but dampened soybean and tobacco yields.

Soil: State agronomists warn that the growth of upcoming crops also is likely to be affected because rains washed away nutrients many crops need.