It didn’t rain, but it threatened to. Somehow through one of the wettest summers in recent memory, the Sunbelt Ag Expo Field Day went off without a hitch and started and ended with no one getting soaked.

The unusually wet weather that has drenched much of the Deep South this summer didn’t miss the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm site in Moultrie, Ga., where more than 40 inches of rain has fallen since the first of the year, which is almost the annual total for an average year. The area has gotten half of that rain in the last six weeks.

The 600-acre Sunbelt Ag Expo farm site is a working farm and real-life scenarios (and weather) hit it, just like on commercial farms. “It’s been a rough year, so far, but there really isn’t anything we can do about it. We just do our best,” said Michael Chafin, Sunbelt Expo farm site manager, referring to the Sunbelt farm site and to area farmers in general.

Just like most farmers in the area, Chafin said, he has had a tough time getting into the site’s fields to make timely management applications. Pix application for cotton’s been hard to plan and apply. Fertility for corn and later-planted cotton and land plaster on peanuts have had to be done as best they can, or by four-wheelers. “And airplanes have been booked up and running wide open. If you weren’t already on somebody’s list, you just might not get it done this year,” he said. Airplanes were a must to get fungicide applications out on the Expo farm site this year. But, he said, everything’s still in line for the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 15-17 this year.

Attendees in and out before rains hit

The field day was different this year. The day started at 8 a.m. and ended at noon, which was a new schedule for the event, but it worked and got the 400-plus attendees in and out of the fields before afternoon showers started.

And the showers did come, but before they did the attendees walked away with questions answered by some of the top peanut, corn, soybean and cotton experts in Georgia, with specialists from both the University of Georgia peanut and cotton teams there to answer questions. And area agronomists and field experts from all major companies were there, too, to showcase their workhose varieties and newest ones, handing out advice on how to best use them — in wet or dry conditions.

Irrigation specialists and company reps had plenty of questions, too. Just because it's raining now doesn't mean it will continue. Doesn't take long for Deep South soils to crave water. Water management's still a critical part of this year's crop and future ones.

“A lot of things you see here you won’t see in the (commercial) field for two or three years, but you get farmers thinking for 2015, 2016,” said Chip Blalock, Sunbelt Expo executive director.

“A plan adopted to streamline the operation to avoid keeping observers out too long also helped beat the rain in this first year of the altered (field day) schedule. The number of stops was reduced from 42 to 30 this year, too, and some static exhibitions were added on the Expo grounds.”

Though rain didn’t dominate the field day, it did dominate the conversation. Almost every presenter on the four-hour tour July 11 started with a reference to the soggy conditions.

“There is no doubt that we have some of the best and most diligent growers, and they know what they need to do, but they have just not been able to get into fields like they need to this season. This has certainly been a challenging year for our growers,” said Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension weed specialist.

And, as at each Sunbelt Ag Field Day, there were prizes. Roger Price from Quitman, Ga., won a pair of Titan HD 2002 skid steer tires. Henry Andrews from Cairo, Ga., won the Brown Rotary Cutter 472 donated by Brown Manufacturing in Ozark, Ala. Christopher Dietrich from Graceville, Fla., got the Remington 870 shotgun.

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