Cotton crops see biggest hit after Hurricane Matthew

Published 5:59 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cotton crops across Beaufort County are taking a hit due to wet conditions exacerbated by Hurricane Matthew.

Rod Gurganus, Beaufort County agriculture agent, said farmers are looking at a 50- to 70-percent loss on cotton yield.

He said a good yield is about 1,000-1,200 pounds of cotton per acre, but this year the crop was already down to about 700-800 pounds. Matthew dealt another blow, reducing yield even further to about 200-400 pounds.

Although some crops across the county were submerged in floodwaters in the low-lying areas of Terra Ceia, Pantego and Belhaven, the main problem for cotton crops was the already wet ground from heavy rains earlier in the year and winds blowing the cotton out of the bolls.

“It’s really bad. Cotton is an expensive crop to grow,” Gurganus said. “Once that cotton hits the ground, you can’t pick that up with the machine. … There’s also some bolls on the plant that aren’t going to open up.”

The poor yields are also dealing a blow to farmers financially.

Gurganus said Beaufort County farmers have had a bad streak of luck over the past two years, so they have had to rely on crop insurance to help lessen the blow.

“I will say that there’s a lot of concern on the farm right now with growers trying to make a profit,” he said. “You can see it on the farmers’ faces when you talk to them.”

“We’re going to lose significant dollars on cotton this year.”

Despite this poor outlook, Gurganus said Beaufort County farmers are lucky when compared to those in Hyde County.

Hyde County has many areas still under water, and the relatively wet conditions over the past three years haven’t helped either.

Crews were trying to pump out as much water as possible throughout Hyde County over the past week.

There is hope for soybeans, however, according to Gurganus.

He said the soybean crops were flooded, but it looks as if farmers may still be able to collect a decent crop. Most of the corn acreage in the county was also harvested before Matthew came through.

“Our soybean crop has been impacted, really, by the weather we’ve had all year long,” Gurganus said. “It’s not as good as it has been in some years.”

The only way to know for sure, though, is for farmers to get out in their fields and assess the damage first hand.

“(Insurance) is something, a tool, that they use to manage risk. That’s really about the only option they have,” Gurganus said. “We’re looking at two years now of … crop failure. That starts to wear on these guys.”