Some may think the lush fields along Union County’s back roads prove that this summer’s heavy rainfall was a windfall for farmers.But they’d be wrong.According to local farmers and the agencies that serve them, the excess rain and clouds this growing season caused numerous problems – particularly on fields that are “double-cropped,” with a second crop planted soon after the first crop’s harvest.“I’ve often said I try not to grumble about too much rain,” said Allan Baucom, a Monroe native who grows corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat in Union, Stanly, Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Robeson and Lancaster counties. “However, this year that’s been extremely difficult to honor. The amount of rainfall we've had has created the most challenges – from the farming perspective –that I’ve ever encountered.”According to rainfall figures from the State Climate Office of North Carolina, rainfall totals for June, July and August were nearly 30 percent higher than normal. Union County Agricultural Extension Agent Andrew Baucom, no relation to Allan, said he has talked to farmers who’ve been working the fields for 50 years.“I talked to a retired farmer about this the other day,” Andrew Baucom said. “He hadn’t experienced conditions like this since the 1940s.” Andrew Baucom said the early season’s rains caused a lot of the crops to die. “Either the seed rotted in the ground or, when it came up, it died from too much water. So a lot of the spring crops had to be replanted,” he said. “It slowed the wheat harvest down due to saturated fields, and also decreased the quality of the wheat, which affects the price.” Baucom said Union County has an estimated 300 acres of wheat that was never harvested because of the conditions of the field and the poor quality of the grain. Wet, cool and cloudy conditions caused some crops to be planted weeks later than usual. That reduced the chance that double crops would reach maturity. “We had a lot of shady, cool days when the crops were trying to pollinate and make fruit,” he said. Those conditions prevent corn from producing as much, he said.“So instead of making a full ear, it will make two-thirds of an ear. So you’re losing yield,” Baucom said. “Same thing with cotton. Cotton bloomed later this year, so the bolls set later, which will decrease the amount of harvest for the cotton.” Andrew Baucom added that yields might be comparable to 2007, when a drought hurt local farms. Farmer Allan Baucom said the droughts he’s faced have been easier to handle than this year’s rain. “With droughts, you do what you can do, and then it’s just Mother Nature,” Allan Baucom said. “With this, you’re doing all you can, but you can’t do enough.” Baucom, whose family has farmed the same land on Morgan Mill Road for more than 100 years, said the overcast, wet, cooler weather caused planting and harvesting delays. He said he harvested only about 90 percent of his wheat.“The last third was extremely poor quality,” Baucom said. “So we were double-whammied: we lost yield due to excess water, and then lost quality.” There were times when the ground was too wet for farm equipment, too, he said. “The equipment just wouldn’t stand up,” he said. “We and others kept wreckers and other equipment to pull combines out. They were getting stuck in the mud constantly.” Andrew Baucom said Allan Baucom has one of the larger farms in the Southern Piedmont region of the state.“It’s really difficult to put in perspective, the absolute challenge that this year has been,” Allan Baucom said. “It’s not just from the standpoint of timing, and getting crops harvested and getting crops planted back – but also the psychological aspect. It becomes extremely trying on the individuals. … There are physical challenges … and emotional issues as well. “This time of year is always stressful. Long hours –you’re doing more than what you probably should be trying to accomplish. And you expect challenges from weather. That’s just part of what is normal, part of what you accept when you decide to farm. … But I’ve never had a year like this.”
Friday, Sep. 06, 2013
Union County: Rainfall poses challenges for farmers
Jane Duckwall is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jane? Email her at email@example.com.
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