Virginia’s cotton and peanut harvests are lagging due to a series of disruptive weather events, and the threat of additional rain could further dampen farmers’ efforts.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Nov. 9 crop report, Virginia’s cotton and peanut harvests are just 35% and 65% complete, respectively.
At this time last year, Virginia farmers had completed the peanut harvest and harvested 74% of the state’s cotton.
“Peanuts and cotton are both extremely late, and that was compounded by wet weather in the spring that pushed back the planting season, and dry weather in the summer that slowed growth,” said Mike Parrish, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Dinwiddie County. “Now we’re facing the challenges of more rainfall, and farmers just aren’t able to get on the ground to harvest their crops.”
Shelley Barlow, a Suffolk cotton grower, said she delayed the bulk of her harvest in hopes that a streak of beneficial weather would allow her slow-growing crop to mature.
However, with 2 to 3 inches of rain in the forecast for Southeast Virginia this week, Barlow said her crop would likely suffer as she pauses her harvest once more.
“We’ve been trying our best to wait until the cotton is at an optimal stage, but then you look at the calendar and realize you have to go whether it’s ready or not,” Barlow said. “And now that we’re facing another rain event, it not only slows us down from getting back into the field, it also diminishes the quality of the cotton.”
Barlow noted that she has harvested 100 of her 400 cotton acres, but said the quality “was probably the worst” she’s ever produced. The NASS report indicated 43% of Virginia’s cotton is in poor or worse condition.
Isle of Wight County farmer Steven Crocker said his peanut crop was about three weeks behind schedule due to wet conditions. With saturated soil and wet peanuts preventing farmers from running combines through their fields, harvests have been “a struggle for everybody,” he said.
While the quality of standing cotton is a concern, Virginia’s remaining peanut crop has fared better despite late harvests. Forty-five percent of the crop is in good condition, and 44% is in fair condition.
Parrish noted that 10 days of dry weather preceding recent rain allowed farmers to make progress on each harvest. With another dry spell in the forecast, he anticipated that trend will continue.
“After this wet period comes through and the ground dries back out, we’ll finish up the bulk of these harvests,” Parrish said. “We’re just hoping everything stands up and will be able to be harvested.”