Mois­ture and rain­fall af­fect Mid-Shore crops

Times-Record - - NEWS - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@ches­pub.com

EASTON — Around the Mid-Shore, farm­ers are feel­ing af­fects of in­creased rain­fall in their crops, soil and wal­lets.

Most of the pre­cip­i­ta­tion has come from in­creased rain­fall due to Hur­ri­cane Florence, which dev­as­tated the North and South Car­olina coasts last week. By Tues­day, Sept. 18, rain­fall to­tals had ex­ceeded the his­tor­i­cal monthly av­er­age of 4 inches by 0.16 inches.

Dorch­ester County Farm Bu­reau Women’s Lead­er­ship Com­mit­tee Chair­man Va­lerie Brins­field said rain­fall and flood­ing has im­pacted farm­ers di­rectly this year. Added rain­fall has slowed the mat­u­ra­tion of crops, which has de­layed other parts of the har­vest­ing process, she said.

“For ex­am­ple, we grow sweet pota­toes and it de­layed the time of putting the crop in,” Brins­field said. “Usu­ally, we’re start­ing to har vest about now. Well, we’re go­ing to be an­other cou­ple weeks out.”

Farm­ers also face is­sues dry­ing crops, which lead to mone­tary penal­ties, Brins­field said. Corn used by grain mills must have a spe­cific lack of mois­ture or they are paid a smaller per­cent­age for the crop. Each mill has its own penalty scale, Brins­field said.

Farm­ers have the op­tion to wait to sell the crop when it dries; how­ever, by de­lay­ing they also risk is­sues with fu­ture storms, she said.

If the soil is over-sat­u­rated, farm­ers can’t even use their ma­chin­ery due to the weight, Brins­field said. Farm­ers risk get­ting their com­bines, trucks and other large equip­ment lodged in the soil, she said.

Sandy soil might not be af­fected as heav­ily, whereas clay-like or other softer forms of soil might be un­ten­able.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, all farms have had some af­fect from the rain­fall in 2018,” Brins­field said. “You can har vest in 3 inches of rain, you can’t har­vest in 6 inches of rain.”

Tal­bot County Farm Bu­reau Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer Amy Priest said Tal­bot County had been largely un­af­fected by ti­dal flood­ing. St. Michaels and the Til­gh­man re­gion had been the only ar­eas in the county to ex­pe­ri­ence flood­ing, she said.

Caro­line County Farm Bu­reau Pres­i­dent Glen Plutschak said the rain has de­layed the plant­ing of wheat, which is the first of the fall har­vest to be planted.

Plutschak said with vary­ing droughts and over-sat­u­ra­tion, it has been a strange year for farm­ers. Pre­ston went 35 days with­out rain at one point in the sea­son, he said, which also neg­a­tively af­fected crops.

“The big thing has been keep­ing the corn dry,” Plutschak said.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

Rain falls on a corn crop along Tan­yard Road near Pre­ston Mon­day, Sept. 24.

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