Farming improved for some, others still concerned
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Sep 17, 2013 | 2414 views |  0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recent dry, hot weather has helped many area farmers recover after a late planting season due to several months of above average rainfall. However, continued dry weather and an early frost could stifle those gains.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn crops in Alabama are growing well and many other crops are in good condition. Agriculture experts agree, but add that more rain is needed to continue the growth for several crops, despite the area receiving above-normal rainfall earlier in the summer. Meanwhile, a possible early frost could hurt many late-growing crops, experts say.

Department of Agriculture statistics, released Monday, show crops in the state are growing nearly as well as last year. For instance, about 86 percent of the state's corn has matured, compared to 100 percent this time last year. Also, 95 percent of the state's soybeans are blooming, compared to 100 percent in September last year.

"Overall, farmers are in pretty good shape in the state," said Max Runge, extension economist at Auburn University. "The dry weather has been good because it's near the end of the growing season ... still, peanuts, cotton and soybeans still need one good rain a week this month."

Runge said even with extra rain, many Alabama crops such as cotton and soybeans are still in danger if there is an early frost this fall, Runge said.

"But as long as we don't have an early frost, we'll be in pretty good shape," Runge said. "Some of these things growing now got pushed back late."

Many Alabama crops could use some extra rain now, but earlier this summer, the rainfall was so heavy and continuous that it made the soil too soggy for farmers to plant.

According to the National Weather Service in Calera, Calhoun County received 24.85 inches of rain between June and August, more than double the average amount the area receives during that period each year. Records show the county has received just 1.77 inches of rain so far this month.

"I could use the rain right now," said Keith Bryant, an Alexandria farmer.

Bryant said heavy rains earlier in the year slowed his planting of cotton and soybeans, and now he needs more rain to catch up. Bryant said he has about 300 acres of soybeans and nearly 400 acres of cotton.

"It's been more of a struggle this year but I've still got the potential for a decent crop," Bryant said. "My cotton is starting to open up but it's two to three weeks later than normal, so I'm concerned about an early frost."

David West, extension coordinator for the Calhoun County Extension Office, said the last few weeks of dry, hot weather have helped several area farmers with their cotton and hay crops.

"This is helpful to them since they'll be able to cut hay," West said. "There was probably a 50 percent loss of hay earlier this summer because they couldn't get in to cut because it was so wet."

Bryant said that despite having problems with the excessive rainfall, he would rather have an abnormally wet year than a dry one.

"In a wet year you may not get what you want but you'll have something," he said. "But a dry year you won't get anything."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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