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Farming Is on a Rain Delay

Have you ever been watching a baseball game that was delayed for rain? Ball boys run out, covering the infield with a tarp. Once the rain stops, the tarp is removed and play resumes. If only farming could resume that quickly.

Equipment is ready. Seed has been bought. Fields have been soil-tested, limed, and fertilizer applied. Fields have been disked and cover crop plowed under. Everything is ready but the weather.

Long days have become longer. My farmer left home before 7 a.m. this morning and didn’t get back home until 9:30 p.m.  

We’ve had another wet spring in North Carolina. Corn planting should have started three weeks ago. We are just setting the first tobacco plants in the field. Other farmers have recently put plastic down for watermelons and other summer crops. In short, farming is delayed.

Growing up in the city, I didn’t understand the effect of weather on farming. I thought any rain was a good rain, and farmers were happy when the clouds opened up. Now I understand the complex relationship farmers have with Mother Nature.

We need rain. We just don’t always need it when we get it. During planting season, we have a set window when we can get crops in the ground.  

Our corn should have been planted last month, but it has been too wet. If we don’t get it planted in the next week, we won’t plant any because it won’t have time to mature and make a good crop.  

There’s a trickle-down effect when crops aren’t planted. 

Much of our corn is sold for pig and poultry feed. If there isn’t corn, the farmers have to find another crop with the nutritional value of corn to feed their animals.

Corn is part of our crop rotation. This is an important tool to help control pests and diseases and also to nurture the soil. Without corn, we lose some of the rotation’s value.

Tobacco is also running late. The crop needs so many days to mature, so planting dates are important. Frost will kill it, so we have to crop (harvest) all the leaves before November.

We also try to stagger planting so it’s not all ready to harvest at the same time. Tobacco is cured in metal barns, and we only have so many, so we don’t want it all ready at the same time.  When the crop is ready to pick, it needs to be harvested or will lose quality the longer it sits on the stalk. If it loses quality, we are paid less for it.  

We need the rains to stop and a few days for fields to dry out. Trying to put a tractor in wet fields isn’t good for the soil and means you will likely be pulling out equipment that gets stuck.

Looking at my newsfeed, I see stories from farmers across the county who are being kept out of their fields because of weather. What effect is it having on your farm?

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