On April 16, a line of severe storms produced more than 60 tornadoes that ripped a 50-mile wide, 200 mile long zigzag path of destruction from southern North Carolina to the middle peninsula of Virginia, leaving a path of death and destruction and changing the spring planting plans of farmers in the two-state area.

Huge jumps in cotton acreage are expected in both North Carolina and Virginia and the big storm system may have increased the amount of cotton that will be planted.

Corn planting was already delayed in most of North Carolina and was just beginning in southeast Virginia. The storm dumped torrential rainfall throughout its path, further complicating corn planting.

Wheat was little-affected by the storm, other than from debris that littered fields from the southern end of North Carolina and through the Tidewater area of Virginia.

With more than 60 documented tornadoes, some of which stayed on the ground more than 30 miles, the amount of storm debris generated is staggering. Though most of the litter that covered farm fields in mid-April has been removed — at least along the direct paths of the tornadoes, the delay in planting dates will likely change planting plans for hundreds of farmers.

Ten counties in North Carolina were declared federal disaster areas and gave farmers access to low interest money to rebuild farm structures and help in debris removal. The problem in most of these rural counties is finding people willing to do the work.

In some of the most heavily damaged areas growers may be able to collect insurance on fields heavily littered with debris from the storm. In some cases, collecting insurance, burning down the standing wheat and cleaning up the field may be a better option than risking damage to a $300,000 combine.

Though destroying wheat to clean up fields may be an option, if it occurs, it’s not likely to be on a scale large enough to significantly impact wheat production in either state.


The USDA planting intentions survey released at the end of March called for 890,000 acres of corn in North Carolina, down 2 percent from 2010.Virginia was expected to produce another 510,000 acres, up 4 percent from 2010.