Through years of experience helping farmers through scorching summer drought, most, if not all, Extension row-crop professionals would express an unqualified preference for rainy weather over prolonged dry weather.

Despite all this rain, they still do, even while conceding that this year’s over-abundance of moisture has challenged their patience.

William Birdsong, an Extension crops specialist in southeast Alabama and one gifted raconteur among many in the Alabama Cooperative Extension System Crops Team, says this crop season so far has been a lot like paddling furiously to shore in a leaky rowboat with only coffee cups to bail out the water.

“I’ve seen a lot of crop seasons in my time, but this is one of the more challenging ones,” Birdsong says. “It’s as if everyone is trying to bail out their fields with a coffee cup as the rains keep coming down.”

Growers have not been treated with a long enough stretch of dryness to plant or, in cases where the crop already has been planted, to deal with weeds, insects or, in an increasing number of cases, fungal diseases associated with the excessive moisture.

The past few weeks have marked the second major bout with excessive rainfall in the Wiregrass. In June, rainy weather delayed planting in the region for as long as 10 days in some instances. Then, adding insult to injury, much of the moisture dried out after farmers finally made it back into their fields.

“It was dry for about two or three weeks — none of the planting rains,” Birdsong recalls. “Once you’ve got seeds in the ground, you want them to germinate and to be pushed along by the rain.

“That didn’t happen — it got dry as a bone.”

That forced farmers with irrigation systems to begin running their systems at full throttle.

“We had two whole weeks of solid irrigation — not one hour lost for 16 days.”

Then Mother Nature turned the tables again: The rainfall returned. 

“We had windows of only two or three days to plant and then it would rain again for two or three days, “Birdsong says. “It was like that the whole month of June.”

That’s been the case for much of the rest of the state. Some of Birdsong’s Extension colleagues have even begun to wonder if they’re approaching a make-or-break situation.