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“We knew we would get maybe 10 bushels of corn per acre, but we went ahead and got what we could, thinking we could settle up with the crop insurance folks later. Otherwise, in our area, the drought is so widespread, it would be well into next year before we get paid — there will just be too many claims to handle.”
Heat took toll
Farmers with irrigation typically produced a fair corn crop, but nothing close to the 200 bushel per acre range that was common the past two years. The record heat that came with the April to August drought took a toll on any crop, or any person, that stayed in it too long.
Along with the drought has come record-breaking heat. In Suffolk, Va., a day in late July topped out at 106 degrees F. — that’s five degrees higher than the then record high temperature. The Raleigh, N.C., area had 8 consecutive days of 100 degree heat and nighttime temperatures that averaged more than 82 degrees.
This level of heat and drought forced the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council to issue a drought advisory warning that existed well into August.
The ridge area of South Carolina, heart of the state’s peach industry, hasn’t fared much better. Perhaps York County, S.C., peach grower Arthur Black explains the economic impact of the drought best. He says, “Let me put this into perspective, a gallon of gas costs $2.50, and bottled water costs 69 cents a pint — water costs me more than gas." The South Carolina peach grower says he has moved to several alternative sites from which to pump water — all of which cost money.
The upper Southeast drought warning extended into mid-August. As of Aug. 15, 35 percent of Virginia was classified as in moderate to severe drought; 21 percent in North Carolina and 11 percent in South Carolina.
Virginia farmer Wayne Kirby says the heat as much as the drought has affected his corn and soybean crops. “Our double-crop soybeans in particular came up and are just sitting there. Unless we get some rain in August, we won’t have much of a crop,” he says.
In the Middle Peninsula of Virginia, Roxbury, Va., grower Jon (Chub) Black says his cotton crop hasn’t fared too well in the heat and drought, though cotton typically weathers both conditions better than grain crops.
Black is one of a handful of cotton growers who produce the crop in a strict no-till system. While his long-term no-till land historically holds water better than tilled land, the heat and the lack of water have taken a toll. In early August Black walked through his cotton, which is about knee-high. “We’re saving lots of money on growth regulators this year, he quiped. Typically, he says, by August he has applied two or three applications of a growth regulator to slow down the cotton plants. Despite the growth regulating chemicals, by early August his cotton is typically waist-high or taller.