By Lakin Whatley
For farmers, rain is usually a good thing. But farmers like George Jeffcoat and Johnny Lee said large amounts of rain this summer are negatively impacting their hay and cotton crops.
Jeffcoat, who is a Houston County row crop farmer and Alabama Farmers Federation’s Southeast Area vice president, said this summer brought the most consistent rainfall he has seen in over 50 years of farming.
He said his peanuts are doing OK, but the cotton crop will suffer.
“The roots on the cotton plants are shallow because they don’t have to grow deep to find water,” said Jeffcoat who has 2,500 acres of peanuts and cotton. “I am expecting dryer weather eventually, and these plants will not be equipped to survive.”
Peanuts are faring better than cotton, according to many farmers, but with heavy rain, the ground becomes too wet for tractors and other machinery to enter the fields. Wet weather and reduced crop work increases pressure from insects and weeds, ultimately reducing yield quantity and quality.
In late July, Headland hay farmer Johnny Lee said he was at least one cutting behind in his Henry County fields.
“I missed the first cutting due to low temperatures earlier in the season, and precipitation has severely reduced the chance of a second cutting,” Lee said. “I expect hay production in this area to be down at least a third.”
The coastal Bermudagrass Lee grows is packed full of nutrients and sold to local farmers. He expects nutrition levels to be below average this harvest, another casualty of excessive rain.
Jeffcoat and Lee both track rainfall by using a standard rain gauge or weather apps.
“With an app, I can see which field had the smallest amount of rain and decide if we may get to work in it that day,” Jeffcoat said. “This helps when your crops are spread out over many miles.”
Rainfall calculations for June and July exceeded normal for much of Alabama. Some areas more than doubled their average total.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing the impacts of too much rain this year, said the Federation’s Brian Hardin. “It has been a reminder that excessive rain — like drought — brings unique challenges for farmers. Alabama farmers are resilient and will adapt.”
However, farmers face a long list of challenges, said Hardin, who is the Federation’s Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department director. Those tasks include applying fertilizer and crop protection products, the quality and development of crops, and delayed hay harvesting, he said.