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Spring planting almost done

Published 11:21pm Friday, May 16, 2014

Suffolk farmers have just about caught up with their planting after unusually cool weather ate up much of their ordinary planting season.

“We were late getting started on spring stuff,” said Shelley Barlow, who owns Cotton Plains Farm outside of Chuckatuck with her husband, Joseph. “We couldn’t do anything this winter.”

Barlow said it was too cold or too wet most of the winter to do any usual winter activities, such as maintenance. The Barlows also are abandoning their wheat crop because it “didn’t look good” after so much wet and cold weather.

But, she said, “We’re in good shape now.”

They could have finished planting their 400 acres of cotton this week but held off until after Friday’s rains.

“It’s not good to plant something before a good, hard, packing rain, because it can’t get up through the ground,” she said. “We’re not far from finishing. I don’t think anybody’s in bad shape. The weather this past week was perfect. We want hot days and warm nights and good moisture, and we had that last week.”

Some folks might believe the harsh winter will mean fewer insects to contend with, but Barlow is skeptical.

“I don’t know how you measure that,” she said. “You never know, if you have more bugs or less bugs, what exactly caused that.”

On the other end of the city, near Whaleyville, Chuck Brothers said this is the first time cotton will grow on his family’s farm in 50 years.

“I have traditionally been a grain farmer — corn, wheat and soybeans,” he said. “But we’ve had two good years of corn production, and everybody was a little skeptical. With corn, you’re one rain away from a 150-bushel yield or 25.”

Brothers said he chose cotton this year to rotate with his normal crops.

“We decided to go with cotton, because cotton can take a lot more stress than the corn could,” he said. “It would be virgin land, and we think we have a good shot at making a pretty good yield.”

Brothers said the rain and cold weather delayed his planting about a week or 10 days from last year.

“We got the cotton planted on time,” he said. He’s planted about 75 acres of cotton out of his total 300 acres.

According to the Virginia Farm Bureau, farmers across the state have reported good progress in spring planting despite earlier conditions. Some strawberry operations were slow to open because of the colder weather but now are in full force. Vegetable planting also is underway, according to the farm bureau.

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