The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 8, 2013

Farmers plagued by cool, wet weather

By Caleb Odom
For The News Courier

— Mother Nature has not been kind to area crop growers this year.

Increased rainfall and lower temperatures have Limestone County farmers struggling to grow in wet conditions.

“We are pretty much just sopping everywhere,” said Shane Seay, Limestone County Farm Service Agency executive director. “A lot of the crops aren’t in the ground because it is so muddy we can’t get them in the ground.”

Seay said the biggest crop being planted now that has local farmers concerned about the volume of rain is wheat.

“Wheat can withstand a little bit more of that than other crops,” Seay said. “But it doesn’t like to sit underwater for long periods.”

Farmers are attempting to combat the moisture with fungicide.

“Hopefully, the fungicide will offset any problems we would have with blackening, mold or fungus,” Seay said.

According to the National Weather Service, rainfall has spiked compared to 2012 totals.

In April 2012, rainfall measured 1.74 inches. In April 2013 there was noticeable growth at 4.67 inches.

“Somebody came in here the other day and said, ‘well the animals are gathered up two by two,’” Seay said.

Rain is only half the issue.

Cooler temperatures make matters worse for growing.

The National Weather Service recorded an average temperature of 63.9 degrees in April 2012. It was down to 59.3 degrees this April.

“It’s hurting us on planting now but if we can get some warmer temperatures it will help us out,” said Eric Shay, Regional Extension Agent of Agronomic Crops in North Alabama.

Seay agrees. “We need a window here where we can get the crops in the ground,” he said. “But we don’t need the rain to cut off by no means.”

The United States Department of Agriculture has decided to implement surveys to gather information from farmers in Alabama along with some neighboring states about how the season is going.

Surveys will be taken during the first two weeks of June and serve as a measuring stick for producers who intend to make production, marketing and investment decisions.

Farmers will be reached by mail, phone and face-to-face interviews to gather thorough information.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service stressed that all data gathered will be confidential with the reports being available on the NASS website www.nass.usda.gov.

Shay remains optimistic about this season’s weather.

“You can’t look at year to year,” Shay said. “Weather patterns change.”