Complicated harvest

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, December 31, 2009

One of the wettest years in Virginia history has contributed to a bumper crop for Suffolk farmers, but it also has caused problems bringing in the harvest.

Farmers throughout Suffolk are slowly getting cotton and soybeans in from the fields, said Rex Cotten, Suffolk agricultural extension agent.

“It’s only a small acreage left out there,” Cotten said. “We have most of it in. Hopefully the fields will dry up and permit completion of harvest.”

Soybeans and cotton are the primary crops that have not yet been fully harvested. Because both grow so low to the ground, relatively dry soil is required to bring them in with the machinery.

“It’s still holding remarkably well, considering the amount of rainfall and wind we’ve had,” said Cotten of the cotton crop. Cotton will not go bad on the plant, but cannot be harvested once it falls to the ground.

The soybean harvest also has been complicated by the wet weather, Cotten said.

“Again, either dry fields or frozen soils would provide an opportunity to get them in,” Cotten said. “At this point, we’re concerned about beans actually popping out of the hull.”

Farmer Shelley Barlow said about two acres of cotton and 10-20 acres of soybeans are left in her family’s fields. Those numbers represent a small percentage of her total crop, she said.

“We still have some soybeans in the field,” Barlow said. “They’re still underwater.”

Barlow said the family likely will not harvest the soybeans or cotton still left in the field.

“The ground either has to freeze or it has to dry up enough towards spring,” Barlow said.

Cotten said prices have been “relatively good” this year, and hoped farmers would be able to complete their harvests.

“I think, overall, the farming community is pleased with this year’s yields,” Cotten said. “Some of the corn acreage was hurt due to wet, cool soils in the spring around planting time, and around pollination we had some dry periods that cut yields some.”

Cotten added Suffolk farmers had been able to harvest more than their neighbors to the west.

“Some counties west of here, I have seen more cotton in Southampton County,” Cotten said. “There is quite a bit more in the field compared to Suffolk.”