Crop Report: Rain and more rain determining crop conditions and harvest times

by | Aug 13, 2018

Rain is delaying harvest across many counties in the state for tobacco and other crops.

Rain continues to be a challenge this growing season according to N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ regional agronomists. Regional agronomists located across the state work individually with farmers to help troubleshoot problems and increase crop production. They are the department’s crop advisors. Regional agronomists work with individual farmers to provide guidance on crop nutrient and/or parasitic nematode problems. RA’s use the services of the Agronomic Services laboratory services to help come up with solutions to a farmer’s unique problems.

Below are updates from field agronomist on crop conditions in the state. Crop updates are listed by region below:

“In the past three weeks, Region 2 has received anywhere from 5 to 20 inches of rain. Areas in the eastern part of the region experienced the largest amount, leaving crops in these areas drowned out especially in the lower lying areas.  Areas in the western part of the region, those areas with sandier soils, these crops are looking better and needed rain. Late planted corn and soybeans appear to be doing better than earlier planted crops due to the rain at planting time. Farmers are having issues with wet conditions to being able to get in the field to spray cotton and harvest and spray tobacco, many are using airplanes to apply spray applications. Hemp has taken a hit with the wet weather and we have seen a large amount of disease and plants that are being blown over in thunderstorms. ” Carla Pugh, Region 1  (Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Martin, Pamlico, Tyrrell, Washington)

“The 2018 growing season continues to be one the most challenging and costly ones in many years.  The southeastern part of the region has been extremely wet nearly all season.  In some areas, land has been left fallow with crops not being planted due to wet soil conditions.  The remainder of the region has experienced wet conditions early, followed by extreme drought, and now soils are saturated once again.  No one remembers a year quiet like this one.  To most, it feels like we have had at least two seasons in one with the huge swings in weather.  In the end, the region’s growers will make a crop, but yield, quality and return on investment will be greatly reduced due to extreme weather events.  All crops have suffered nearly equally, but occasionally there will be an isolated area that has been spared the brunt of this weather.  All of this is concerning with grower finances being stretched going into 2018 and the markets being unfavorable.” Chris Jernigan, Region 3 (Carteret, Craven, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Pitt) 

“Recent rain that Region 4 has received has been mostly beneficial due to dry conditions prior to rainfall.  However, there are select places throughout the region that have had too much rain, resulting in drowning of tobacco, soybeans, cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes. Due to dry conditions a month ago, the tobacco crop has by in large benefited from recent rainfall.  This has allowed for additional growth and leaf expansion of middle and upper stalk positions.  However, soil-borne and foliar diseases have become a major issue due to extended periods of leaf wetness and additional pathogen movement through the soil.  Most growers are behind harvesting due to dry weather conditions experienced a month ago followed by continuous rainfall over the last few weeks.  It will be very challenging to save the crop due to limited barn space and rapid deterioration in the field.  However, some growers have staggered their transplant date and managed nitrogen fertility a lot better than in years past, allowing them to do a better job in being timely on harvest.  Once the crop reached maturity (roughly 120 days from transplant to harvest), those growers have been able to get the crop out of the field and maintain leaf quality.

“Industrial hemp looks fair to good in my region.  One grower has expressed dissatisfaction growing it on white plastic and indicated that he will grow it just like tobacco next year.  In my opinion, the hemp grown on bare ground like tobacco appears to be much better. Numerous diseases have been confirmed in the crop, resulting in significant plant loss for some growers.” Tyler Whaly, Region 4  (Duplin, New Hanover, Pender, Onslow, Sampson) 

“The rainfall in Region 5 has been very sporadic and variable.  Parts of Brunswick County received 30+ inches of rain for the month of July leaving crops water logged and tobacco diseased and washed out.  Eastern Columbus County has received rain all during the season and has also had trouble spots with too much rainfall.  The rest of the region was in much need of rain and crops have benefitted while others have not received adequate moisture to bring crops out of drought conditions.

“Cotton looks great across the region.  Warm moist conditions have the crop with a heavy boll load and looking good at this point.  Soybeans were in much need of rain and have taken on regrowth where conditions were extremely dry.  Corn earworms and armyworms are scattered across the region in soybeans at this time.  Corn harvest is under way and yields are looking good where moisture has been adequate.  Dryland areas suffered for moisture and yields will show it.  Sweet potatoes and peanuts were planted on the late side, but look better since receiving needed moisture.  Tobacco is excellent in some areas while others are struggling with disease and too much water.  Produce crops were hit hard by the hot June temperatures and lack of moisture soon afterwards.  Blueberries were hit hard by the cold temperatures in March, but most growers indicate about a 60 to 70 percent crop while those with early varieties saw significant losses for a second season.  Hemp planted on plastic looks ok for the most part, but lodging is an issue.  Hemp planted without plastic has a better root system and has held up to the wind and rain better.  Root rot and other diseases have moved in where rains have been excessive.” Georgia Love, Region 5 (Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, Robeson, Scotland)

A peanut digger digs up the peanuts, shakes the dirt off and then inverts them so they can dry in the field.

Recent rains have improved the tobacco crop greatly but wet conditions are hindering harvest. Also, the rain has brought significant black shank and other diseases.  Harvest is running two to three weeks behind normal schedule. Good, but late crop. Corn  has poor to average stands, a few very good stands. Beginning to dry down. Soybeans are blooming and setting pods.  The crop is looking good at this point. The majority of the cotton crop is setting bolls. Many late and re-planted fields have reduced potential crop. Average overall. Peanut crop is looking good. Wet weather has delayed timely fungicide apps for leaf spot and sclerotinia.  Like tobacco, harvest may be later than normal this year. Sweetpotato planted acreage appears to have leveled off compared to last year with a wide range of planting dates. No major issues at this point.  Good crop, harvest will also be delayed. Almost all the industrial hemp crop seems to have been planted for CBD oil.  Quality ranges from very poor to excellent.  There are many valuable lessons being learned this year about production.  At this point it appears clones planted on well-managed bare ground are performing best.  Fusarium, sclerotinia, russet mites, weeds are major issues in pest management.”  Milk Wilder, Region 6 (Edcombe, Franklin, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, Vance, Warren)

“For most crops, the recent rains that have fallen on Region 7 have been very beneficial.  Soybeans, peanuts, grain sorghum, late-planted corn and cotton have all benefited greatly from the much-needed moisture.  There are some areas that have gotten too much rain that has led to drowned and washed out areas.  The benefit to the tobacco crop has been a mixed bag, depending on the area.  Most areas of Region 7 were in dire need of a rain on the tobacco crop a month ago.  As rains began to fall, most of the crop responded by adding a tremendous amount of growth and maturity, leading to a very nice-looking crop.  The downside has been that some areas have gotten too much rain (some localized areas receiving around 20 inches over the past three weeks) and wind from some very strong thunderstorms that have led to drowned and blown down tobacco that required attention from growers.  The standing up of the crop is a very expensive endeavor, especially for those growers that had to do the same fields multiple times due to multiple storms over the course of a couple of weeks.  Some growers are scrambling to make fertility decisions to attempt to keep the crop in the fields as long as possible.  Due to the dry weather in June the tobacco crop maturity was delayed, so very little has been harvested at this point.  Many growers are struggling with saturated soil conditions with not only harvesting equipment but also with sprayers and fertilizer equipment.  There is a lot of tobacco in the fields at this point, the challenge will be to save it.  The crop generally takes 10 to 12 weeks to harvest, which, at this point, puts it at Halloween.  We need a late frost.

“The new crop, industrial hemp, looks pretty good, although that is a relative term since field-grown hemp is new to most folks.  Some growers are growing the crop on white plastic which seems like the way to go due to the ease of irrigating and fertilizing the crop.  However, it seems to make it more susceptible to blowing over due to the top-heavy nature and smaller root system.  Bare-ground growers seem to be faring better due to more extensive root systems, although some felt the need to irrigate during the dry weather in June and early July.  The vast majority of the crop is being grown from transplants for the purpose of extracting CDB oil, it remains to be seen if this will be a successful endeavor.” Don Nicholson, Region 7 (Harnett, Johnston, Wake, Wayne, Wilson) 

“The tobacco crop in Region 8 is highly variable based on timing of rain. Tobacco that was planted on time seems to be the best in the region for yield and quality. Tobacco that was late planted due to rainfall experienced several weeks without rainfall after transplanting. The late-planted crop is short, and quality is poor on lower stalk position leaves. Recent rainfall has helped in filling out upper stalk leaves. Storms over the past week in the region have caused some localized areas of tobacco to be blown over with some fields being blown over two or three times in a week.  The corn crop in the region should be on track for an average year. The areas that received timely rainfall should have a decent corn crop, while areas that were dry during pollination will see yield impacts. The full season soybean crop in the region seems to be on track for a good crop if we can continue to get timely rainfall events. Double-crop soybeans in the region are variable with some fields expected to make average yields, while others struggle with plant population and vigor due to dry weather after planting.

Industrial hemp in the region is primarily being grown for CBD oil production. Most plants were transplanted between May 1 and June 30. Some growers experienced problems with transplants flowering after transplanting due to light variation between the greenhouse and field. Most of the industrial hemp crop in the region is being grown on white plastic with most growers experimenting with a tobacco row system on small acreage. The crop had problems early on with soil-borne pathogens after heavy rainfall events. Soil-borne pathogen issues are beginning to show up this week in locations with heavy rainfall last week.” Brandon Poole, Region 8 (Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Guilford, Granville, Orange, Rockingham, Stokes) 

“Region 9 experienced a lot of rain early, than hot and dry conditions in June through early July, and excessive rain since. The corn crop is in overall poor condition. Tobacco is extremely late with a lot of green in the field. Those who irrigated are on their first priming.  Peaches are overall not a good crop due to early spring freeze.  The later varieties have yielded ok.  Most  industrial hemp in the region is for CBD.  Flowering has started earlier than expected.  There is concern that some hemp growers do not have a contract market. Cotton is producing an overall average crop.  If we don’t have a late frost there is potential for a good crop.” Josh Mays, Region 9 (Anson, Chatham, lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond)

“Drought conditions in June and July severely impacted the corn crop during pollination. Yields will be well below normal with some growers in the middle and lower Piedmont having close to complete loss.  The cotton crop is doing very well now that rains have returned and it looks to be an average crop. Full-season soybeans look to be a fair to good crop now that they have had some rain. Double-crop soybeans are impacted heavily from the drought and many growers got poor stands. Even with the rain from the past 2 weeks, it will only make a fair crop due to poor population numbers. The tomato crop’s quality is severely impacted because of the rain with many growers losing much of the crop to misshaping and rotted fruit.  Pastures are looking a lot better after the recent rain. The biggest concern I have in my region is the dairy industry. The low price of milk is causing many growers to struggle to continue operations. I keep hearing from those growers that they, “Don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.” Daniel Overcash, Region 11 (Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanley, Surry, Union, Yadkin)

Photo of soybeans

Soybean Field

“Region 12 was impacted by Tropical Storm Alberto in May, which dropped record amounts of rainfall for many counties.  McDowell is designated as a “contingent flood disaster county”.  Corn planted prior to the Alberto rain event really never recovered as June was hot and dry as well.  Due to the wet conditions much of the corn was planted later than usual.  The late-planted corn has fared better.  Tobacco was impacted also by the wet late spring conditions and growers were late getting fields transplanted.  Tobacco in Region 12 is decent, albeit late.  Early soybeans look good in Region 12, but double-crop soybeans have struggled as small grain crops were harvested late and beans were planted during hot dry conditions.  Recent rains may help doublecrop beans finish out.

Vegetable crops were impacted as well by wet conditions.  Some farms in the region flooded in May, and lost some plastic. Since then, growers have fared better.  Recent rains have increased bacterial disease pressure on tomatoes.  Apple harvests will start in a couple of weeks for early varieties such as Gala.  Apple crop is fair to good.  Fraser fir has grown well this year.  Fraser likes wet years and the mountains have experienced that for the most part.  6-8-foot Frasers are in high demand, but supply is limited.” Dwayne Tate, Region 12 (Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes )

“Corn silage harvest has begun in the Piedmont portion of Region 14. The crop looks good thanks to timely rainfall. Wet cold conditions early in the season resulted in less than ideal plant populations in areas of early planted corn. Where stands are adequate the crop looks quite well. Late-planted corn is looking good and has pollinated well.  Corn in the western portion of my region has had a very challenging growing season due to cool weather, lots of moisture and some hail. Growers are hoping for a late frost. Full-season soybeans look good in general. Frequent rainfall has made weed control very difficult. Double-crop soybeans do not look as promising. Some cotton has been planted. Most growers in my region have chosen to plant soybeans instead of cotton. Cotton suffered from early season cool weather and excessive moisture. Wet field conditions delayed transplanting, which resulted in some stunting of crops. Waterlogged fields resulted in more crop damage than usual. Earlier cold conditions have slowed crop growth as well.  Short supplies and higher prices have helped growers to hang on. Blackberry harvest continues mainly on primocane fruiting cultivars. Early yields were impacted by cold weather and frequent showers have slowed harvesting, resulting in less marketable fruit.  Apple harvest has started, and peach harvesting continues. Apple yields are all over the board so far.  Labor is a concern for many vegetable and fruit growers. Nearly every grower would like to have additional harvest labor. Slim profit expectations and cash flow difficulties have many row crop producers concerned.” Steve Dillon, Region 14 (Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Henderson, Lincoln, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania)