Wet Weather Testing Farmers, Livestock Operations

An unseasonably wet winter is taking its toll on local farmers and their livestock.  Growers and producers are praying for dry weather.

Bryant Spivey, Johnston County Cooperative Extension Director said,The rain is having some detrimental effects on our wheat crop especially in wet soils.  It is also delaying the operation of applying fertilizer to wheat, which it badly needs.  I suspect that we may lose some wheat acres in wet locations.  This is the main effect for right now, however if conditions do you improve soon it will begin to cause problems with bedding sweet potatoes, applying burndown herbicides, and preparing fields for tobacco.  These will all be major activities in March.”

Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent Brandon Parker said, “There is currently not much in the fields other than small grains crops. But on the commercial horticulture side we do have our Spring strawberry crop that is being affected by the heavy and persistent rain events. Strawberries are planted in mid-October and grow a small amount in the late fall before going dormant in the winter. They can tolerate very cold temperatures with little to no damage, but with the never ending rain growers are starting to worry about potential fungal disease issues that can overwinter as a small problem then explode into a larger issue with wet conditions come spring growth and berry formation. This wet winter has most strawberry growers concerned they will not be able to get out timely fungicide applications to prevent foliage and fruit diseases that can ruin a crop during spring.”

“The weather is also preventing the laying of black plastic mulch that many vegetable farmers rely on to plant early crops such as Irish potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and other greens. The timeliness of planting these crops is crucial because they do not tolerate the warmer summer temperatures we have, so just planting them later in the spring is not a viable option.”

“And last, I would mention sweet potato plant beds, sweet potato growers typically bed sweet potato seed roots in mid-to-late March and into early-April to grow plants for the current seasons crop. Seed roots need to be bedded in drier conditions to prevent potential rot and decay of the roots which would in turn prevent plant production and lead to plant shortages for field transplanting. We are only a few weeks away from this time frame so farmers are getting a little nervous about this as well,” Parker said.

Dan Wells is a Livestock Agent with the Cooperative Extension in Johnston County. “The type of frequent rainfall, combined with some colder temperatures, does pose some concern for pastured livestock. Animals exposed to these elements don’t necessarily need shelter, but additional energy supplementation will help them combat the cooling effects of this weather.”

“Livestock such as cattle can withstand very cold temperatures quite well as long as they are dry. Of course, that’s not been the case of late. With these soggy conditions animals expend more energy maintaining their body temperature, as well as in just moving about. Cattle with a dry coat reach their lower critical temperature around 30 degrees, but with a wet coat that limit is 59 degrees and energy needs increase 2 percent for each degree below this. At times like these, good herdsmen feed their best quality forages and supply an energy supplement daily to offset the additional maintenance energy demands,” Wells stated.

But there is hope for better days ahead. “The good news is the 14-day forecast looks warmer and drier!” Wells added with excitement.