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Wet, cold American fall

Both local and regional farmers have dealt with wet conditions so far this fall, from tropical storm systems to more recent rainfall. These may have removed any concerns of drought, but they’ve also made the soil too damp for work.

“We’ve got some beans that are ready to harvest, but the land is really wet,” said Shelley Barlow, who farms in the Chuckatuck area, where machinery would ruin the still-muddy ground as of Monday. “They’re not being hurt badly, but the longer you wait when it’s ready to harvest, the quality declines.”

Moisture levels statewide were high at the end of October and heading into November, according to a report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation that emphasized how staggering this year’s rainfall has been for growers in its Nov. 1 announcement.

“I don’t think anyone alive has seen rainfall like we’ve had this year,” Robert Harper, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grain marketing manager, stated in the press release. “A couple of growers in Essex and Hanover counties reported more than 70 inches of rain in their rain gauges, and the year’s not over yet.

“The 2018 rainfall totals allowed some producers to grow the best crop they’ve ever grown. Others grew great crops, but there was significant damage. Others lost crops to all the rain.”

Soybean growers were especially hurt. According to the federation, early soybean crops this year were hurt by the heavy rains of Hurricane Florence, and if they get too wet, then they can rot in the field.

“It’s definitely been hard on soybean quality,” according to Harper. “When soybeans get above 3 percent damage, they can’t be sold into the container export market. And those contracts are slightly more profitable.”

Barlow said farmers with soybeans have been feeling the rain across Suffolk, as well as cotton growers. Wet cotton can’t be collected by machinery properly, and the crop is at its best when its white, fluffy and dry.

“We have to wait ‘til it dries out and it gets white and fluffy again,” she said.

Despite the troubles, there are still many field crop conditions that remain decent, according to the federation. The recent crop report estimated that 63 percent of crop is good and 24 percent is fair in Virginia. Soybean crops are estimated to be 56 percent good and 25 percent fair, and 68 percent of the state’s pastureland was rated good to excellent.

Farmers like Barlow are simply waiting for sunny, chilly and clear fall days.

“Just clear, cool days would get us a lot farther along. Please send some whenever you can get it,” she said.