Too Much Rain Too Fast For Farmers

BERLIN – Too little rain last growing season has been succeeded this spring by too much, and some farmers in Worcester County are looking at replanting saturated fields.

Shirley Hastings, nutrient management advisor for the Worcester County agriculture extension office, said the effects of the record amounts of rain on county farmers varies according to their soil. Sources say soil types in Worcester County and across the Eastern Shore vary greatly.

“If they have sandier soil, it probably didn’t drown them out,” Hastings said.  “In low lying areas, it holds the water in. All the shore soils are pretty different. Overall we’re sandy but there’s a lot of areas where it’s low and there’s heavier soil.”

Hastings said that several farmers have told her that their fields are too saturated with rain to grow the seed they planted in April.

“They’ve got to get into the field and replant,” said Hastings.

Seed from all kinds of plants, like the soybeans, corn and market vegetables planted by farmers, can be damaged and become moldy in waterlogged ground, preventing the seed from sprouting into a new plant or keeping sprouted plants from growing well.

The Worcester County extension office has usually begun testing cornfield soil by this time of the year to determine if the soil holds enough nutrients to fuel the young corn plants’ early summer growth spurt, but has received no calls from farmers with the necessary six to 12-inch corn. 

“At this point I don’t have a farmer ready for us to come out,” said Hastings.

May 2008 is the wettest May in 50 years and with another rainstorm could become the wettest May on record. Cold nights have also helped delay the corn crop.

“The corn’s that up looks ugly. It’s too cold for it. Tomatoes look like they’ve been run over,” said Virgil Shockley, one farmer who will replant. “Most times I have sweet corn that’s six to eight inches tall [by now]. Right now it looks like it’s hardly come up. It’s definitely not a good growing season so far…You can’t even get in the darn field.”

Whether the 2008 fall harvest will be good or disappointing cannot be predicted at this point, despite the poor start to the growing season. Warmer weather and enough rain at the right time could make a positive difference, while another year of drought could make a negative difference.

“It’s all going to depend on what Mother Nature brings us. It’s just a gamble every year,” Hastings said.