June 19, 2017
Escambia County farmer Kevin Holland examines a rain-damaged cotton field before replanting.
Continued rainfall and waterlogged fields have prevented some Alabama farmers from completing planting, and radars show no lengthy respite from rain.
In south Alabama, 4 inches of rain have already fallen this June at the Fairhope research station, said the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Kim Wilkins. She estimates 15-20 percent of southwest Alabama fields destined for cotton and soybean seeds have not been planted.
“For me, it’s starting to get more critical because we’d like to have finished planting by the first week of June,” said Wilkins, an agronomic crops regional Extension agent. “The few days it hasn’t rained, it’s so wet we can’t get in the field.”
As of mid-June, Escambia County farmer Kevin Holland had 25 percent of his cotton and peanut crops left to plant. He said he could wrap up planting with a few good, rain-less days.
“Timeliness is everything,” Holland said. “The difference between a good farmer and a great farmer is two days.”
More than 300 miles north of Holland’s farm, some Jackson County farmers have nearly 500 acres to plant or replant because of heavy rains.
Woodville farmer Mike Neal replanted about 450 acres of soybeans after 10 inches of rain fell in one week.
“You can’t control Mother Nature,” he said. “It’s just one factor farmers have to deal with.”
Rain is affecting planted crops, too, since farmers are unable to maneuver equipment into saturated fields to spray for weeds or pests. Extension has reported diseases like southern rust and southern corn leaf blight in south and central Alabama.
Effects could carry over into harvest, too, with fewer daylight hours and the possibility of early frost.
Tropical storms brewing in the Gulf of Mexico are also a concern. Harvest could be delayed up to a month if extreme rains continue into the fall, Neal said.
Fall storms have historically wreaked havoc on crops, Wilkins said, noting the damage Hurricane Opal struck during harvest in 1995.
Visit AlabamaCrops.com for tips to troubleshoot weather-related farming issues.