Rain, flooding taking toll on area crops

Published 9:25 pm Friday, October 8, 2010

Contributing Editor

Not only did last week’s storms and subsequent flooding displace many area residents and damage their homes, the torrential rains and high water have taken or are taking their toll on crops, too.
After last week’s drenching, crops are at risk. Some fields in the area looked like lakes instead of crop land. Some crops fared better than others, said Gaylon Ambrose, an agricultural extension agent with the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension Service.
One farmer, who has 6,000 acres to tend, suffered crop loss estimated at $450,000, or about $75 an acre, Ambrose said.
“That’s significant, you know,” he said.
Ambrose estimated the loss on cotton crops throughout the county at $1.5 million. Of the 16,000 acres of cotton grown this year, about 11,000 acres had not been harvested when the rains and flooding, he said. He said the bad weather likely decreased yield from 75 pounds to 200 pounds of cotton per acre.
The torrential downpours affected yield and quality of cotton crops, Ambrose said. The heavy rains knocked some cotton bolls of plants ready for harvest.
“That’s just an unrecoverable loss,” he said.
As for cotton bolls left on plants, their quality was adversely affected, he said.
Still, farmers are harvesting cotton, he said.
“The fellows were picking today,” Ambrose said late Wednesday morning.
Todd Waters, manager of the Coastal Carolina gin in Pantego, said he expects that gin to process less cotton in the near future than expected before the rain and flooding occurred. Currently, the gin is processing cotton picked before the rain and flooding arrived, he said.
Waters said the sodden cotton bolls and the sprouting of seeds in those bolls will affect the ginning process.
“Yes, it’ll slow us down,” Waters said.
The rain and flooding also lessened the yield per acre of some soybean crops in the county and resulted in a decline in quality, Ambrose said. About 66,000 acres of soybeans were planted this year, with 5 percent of that acreage harvested before the rains and flooding came, he noted.
Corn and tobacco crops fared better because most of their acreage had been harvested prior to last week’s bad weather, Ambrose said.
N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler toured some of the affected crop land by air and ground last week. What he saw was a lot of crops under water.
“That much water will probably affect crop yields and quality because, for the most part, these crops are just beginning to be harvested,” Troxler said in a news release. “This storm was another reminder that no matter how much technology you have, farmers are still at the mercy of the weather.”
This week, Troxler said it’s too early to assess crop damage throughout eastern North Carolina.
However, after touring eastern North Carolina last week, Troxler said he expects yield problems with cotton, sweet potatoes, peanuts and tobacco crops. Troxler’s tour included Beaufort, Hyde and Washington counties.
Entering last week, only 11 percent of the state’s cotton crop and 31 percent of its sweet-potato crop had been harvested, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Farmers have been encouraged to document their damages and contact their county Cooperative Extension Service agents and their local U.S. Farm Service Agency office.