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Crop yields up this year

Despite an “extremely challenging” fall harvest, farmers in the area and throughout Virginia wound up with higher yields of all four of their primary crops, agriculture officials said last week.

“For the most part, we had a good year,” Suffolk Extension Agent Rexford Cotten said. “It has been, overall, a rewarding year, and the coming year, for the most part, looks promising.”

Things did not always look so good last year, though.

When it was time to start harvesting corn and peanuts, in October, the rains began.

“In October, it’s not unusual to get a few days of rain,” Cotten said. “But that situation continued to linger into November — but we continued to hope.”

Fields were frequently too wet for farmers to get their equipment into without getting stuck, and just when the ground had dried out enough, it seemed, the rains came back.

By the time they were to have begun the cotton and soybean harvest, farmers were dealing with saturated fields.

“There were very few days the fields were dry enough and conditions were conducive to the cotton and soybean harvest,” Cotten said.

In some cases, those fields sat for weeks — sometimes even longer — with mature cotton bolls and soybean pods just waiting to be picked. Some fields even waited until after the beginning of the new year for harvest, Cotten said.

In the end, though, nearly every farmer in Suffolk was able to harvest his crops, and the yields have held up surprisingly well, with only 10-percent to 15-percent losses for the most part, he added.

Statewide, yields were higher during the latest harvest for corn, soybeans, cotton and peanuts. Peanut yields were also a record.

While he was not prepared to give actual yield totals for the crops grown in Suffolk, Cotten said the numbers were good this year.

“We had a few peanuts (planted), and for the most part, peanuts had a good year,” he said. “Corn and peanut yields in the city of Suffolk for the last three years have been very good — actually outstanding.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service ields across the state were as follows:

4Corn — 131 bushels per acre, for 43.2 million bushels, an 18-percent increase over 2008

4Soybeans — 38 bushels per acre, for 21.7 million bushels, a 19-percent increase over last year

4Peanuts — 3,700 pounds per acre, for 44.4 million pounds, down 45 percent from last year

4Cotton — 990 pounds per acre, for a total of 130,000 bales