After an unusually cool, wet spring, this week’s summer heat was a welcome change for Southeast Virginia farmers, whose small grains need warmer weather to thrive.
“It’s been a really peculiar year from a weather perspective,” noted Robert Harper, grain marketing manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “March was really warm and felt like April. April was really cool and felt like March. And May turned out to be really cool and wet as well. Fortunately, farmers have had windows in the weather we’ve experienced when they could apply protectants and plant in a very timely manner this year. We’ve also had really good windows for producers to make grass hay.”
Lewis Everett III, a Southampton County cotton, peanut and soybean producer, said it’s been “the coldest May in many years. We just finished planting cotton on our farm on June 1, six days after the cutoff date for it to be covered by crop insurance.”
But his corn crop is growing, and peanuts and soybeans were planted on time.
“Peanut farmers prioritize everything around planting season, so they were chomping at the bit to get their seed into the ground,” said West Drake, a Southampton County peanut grower.
“We were able to get ours planted in three days,” he added. “For the whole month of May, we only had 11 days suitable for planting either cotton or peanuts. The rest were too cold or too wet or a combination of both.”
The state’s winter wheat harvest is about two weeks late because of May’s cooler temperatures, Harper said, and the barley harvest also is late. “I was on the phone with someone in Amelia County yesterday, and he said the grain is dry, but the wheat stalk is still green. So he can’t combine it yet. He’s hoping hot weather will dry the stalks down so he can harvest.”
The June 1 crop progress report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service noted that Virginia corn, peanut and soybean plantings are ahead of the five-year average, while tobacco transplanting is right on schedule.