Crops in North Carolina took a savage beating from Hurricane Irene on Aug. 20, but preliminary results suggest that fruits and vegetables fared reasonably well.

In southeastern North Carolina, Allan Thornton, North Carolina Extension Associate stationed in Sampson County, said, “Some fall cucumbers and sweet potato plants were beaten down. The most loss I heard of on any single farm was 20 percent to 25 percent on a big squash planting.

“Most damaged plants should grow out of any bruising they received…if we don’t get another hurricane. The fall season is just getting started.”

So far at the market, the product has been mediocre, but the market has held good, though with some exceptions, said Thornton. The watermelon market was red hot. But the crop didn’t get the size it needed.

Growers with no irrigation really struggled this year, Thornton said. “It is tough to produce any kind of produce without water. There is so much at risk.

“What has happened in the last few years is we have periods of the growing season where we have to supply 100 percent of the crop’s water needs,” he said. “That is hard to do. We are better able to handle supplementary irrigation than total irrigation. We need help from Mother Nature.”

There could be some changes on the horizon. “For 2012, the biggest growers are looking for some better way of getting water out in the field than overhead sprinkling,: said Thornton. “Pickle cucumber growers are experimenting with putting irrigation in the ground. This holds some promise.”

Pigweed is an enormous problem in vegetable crops in southeast North Carolina, as in much of the southeast. Chemical control is almost non-existent in vegetables.

“What we are going to have to do to deal with pigweed is look harder at controlling it in rotation crops,” Thornton said. “For example, soybean growers getting away from depending solely on Roundup and returning to pre-emergent herbicides, so that offers a chance to control pigweed.”

In sweet potatoes, he said, Valor has done a pretty good job on pigweed.