Rain hasn’t drowned hope for good harvest

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 30, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

This month’s record-breaking rainfall is too much of a good thing for farmers.

&uot;It’s been such a good growing season up until now,&uot; said Shelly Barlow. She and husband, Joseph, farm about 600 acres on Cherry Grove Road in Chuckatuck. &uot;It’s better to have too much rain than too little.


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&uot;It (the rain) is not good but it’s not a real problem yet. If it doesn’t stop soon, it can become one.&uot;

The Suffolk area has received about 11 inches of rain this month, making it the eighth wettest July in history, said Wayne Albright, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s office in Wakefield. Average July rainfall for the area is 6 inches.

The scattered thunderstorms expected across Hampton Roads over the next few days are likely to make the monthly total inches a little higher.

&uot;We might have a break on Saturday,&uot; Albright said. &uot;But we can expect occasional thunderstorms through most of the weekend and on Monday.&uot;

The rain is making it impossible for farmers to get outside to work.

&uot;The biggest impact on us is that we have field work we need to be doing and it’s too wet for us to get out there,&uot; said Barlow. &uot;Right now, we need to be spraying for the insects that damage cotton.

&uot;Some people are hiring crop dusters to spray by air but you really can’t get close enough to the plants that way.&uot;

Rex Cotton, agricultural extension agent in Suffolk, believes parts of the city have received far more rainfall that potentially could damage local soybean, peanut and cotton production.

&uot;Up until two weeks ago, crops were showing full potential,&uot; Cotton said. &uot;But we’ve had significant rainfall since then that is beginning to diminish that potential to some degree.&uot;

Farmers with heavier soil types have suffered the most, he said.

&uot;With more poorly drained soil, there is a depletion of oxygen in the root zone,&uot; he said.

The Buckhorn area has had 8 inches of rain in three days, said Cotton.

&uot;Even so, we are blessed in that it’s been reported that Isle of Wight and Surry counties had 10 inches within two hours on Sunday,&uot; he said. &uot;By no means are we going to give up hope on a successful agriculture year. We are hoping and praying for a fairer day.&uot;

After all, he said, last year was the wettest on record in Hampton Road for the past 100 years. In contrast, 2002 was the driest.

Cotton is cautiously optimistic about the rest of the growing season.

&uot;We are a little concerned at this point but we haven’t lost faith.&uot; he said. &uot;We hope that the year will close out being a success with commercial yields, in spite of the past two weeks.&uot;