Excess Moisture Affecting Crop Production

Topsoil moisture levels have been higher than normal throughout this year’s harvest season and remain high.

“The rainfall situation this year certainly did a big turnaround from conditions at the beginning of the year,” said Jerry Stenger, director of the state Climatology Office at the University of Virginia. “We were very concerned then about possible water shortages but around April, just as the growing season was getting into gear, the skies opened up.

“We started receiving widespread, large amounts of rainfall across the entire state of Virginia. By the end of June, we saw moisture deficits virtually disappear,” Stenger noted.

National Weather Service monitoring stations recently reported excessive precipitation in several areas in Virginia. Nelson County registered 86.91 inches of rain as of Oct. 30, which is 165 percent of the normal annual rainfall of 52.78 inches. Rainfall at the Rappahannock County monitoring station was at 158 percent of normal annual levels a few weeks ago. Patrick County and Charlottesville also are well above their annual average rainfall rates. Rain levels in Hanover, King and Queen, Pittsylvania and Richmond counties are currently registering 125 percent of their annual levels.

Stenger added that there have been some unmonitored small areas of the state that have received huge amounts of rainfall. “So official records don’t necessarily show the enormous amounts of rainfall that have come down in some areas this year.”

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reports this was the fifth-wettest summer since 1930. Because of that, Virginia cotton and peanut producers are expecting lower yields per acre from this year’s harvest, according to NASS.

Corn yields are expected to increase 8 bushels an acre compared to last year, and soybean yields are expected to increase slightly. However, the soybean harvest is behind last year’s pace due to wet conditions. The latest NASS crop report noted that many fields in the state are so wet that farmers cannot use heavy harvesting equipment.

“We had to replant roughly 10 percent of our corn directly because of wash-outs or poor germination due to the moisture this spring,” shared Nathaniel Dirting, a Shenandoah County farmer. “Many of our soybeans got disease from the wet weather that ended up killing the plant prematurely and devastating yields. Yields and quality are down for wheat, barley, grain and straw, which we also harvest for a cash crop. And hay-making was very challenging.”

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