Winter still hinders Va. efforts to get on schedule

AFP Correspondent

(May 20, 2014) The icy fingers of the winter that would never end are still frustrating Virginia farmers who are dealing with the effects of the long cold miserable time.
Farmers and Extension specialists report a variety of negative effects that are lingering across the state.
The growing season is running from two to three weeks behind, two Extension specialists said in telephone interviews and the lack of rain in deep Southwest Virginia is compounding the problem, an Extension agent there reported.
“It’s been slow,” Chris Teutsch, a forage researcher at Virginia Tech’s Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center, said of the coming of the growing season. “It’s been a long, slow winter.”
Hay inventories have been depleted in his area, he said.
Livestock producers were forced to feed more hay not only because of the harsh cold winter but because of their lack of stockpiled fescue.
Teutsch explained that in his area last fall it got dry and farmers couldn’t stockpile enough fescue.
It appears that the hay growing season is getting off to a slow start in a year when hay inventories are down to a minimum across the Commonwealth.
Teutsch had cut the hay in his rye grass trials three weeks later than usual at the Southern Virginia facility.
He said he had a rye grass trial in Northern Virginia and 75 percent of it was lost to winter kill.
Winter hit hard in the Shenandoah Valley as well, David Fiske, superintendent of the Shenandoah Valley AREC said.
“The Shenandoah Valley is just like all parts of the state,” Fiske said.
He said the pasture and crops are about two weeks behind.
At the research center, Fiske said he turned the cattle out on pasture May 5.
Fiske said the indication for the state’s hay crop is that it will be short this year.
He noted that hay inventories are down in the valley with very little hay being carried over from last year’s cutting.
The outlook for small grains is “tricky” Fiske continued.
In the far Southwest where the U.S. Drought Monitor reported “abnormally dry” conditions in its May 8 report, the spring conditions are a cause for concern to farmers there.
Washington County, Va. Extension Agent Phil Blevins said they have a problem “with not a lot of rain.” He reported the grass that has come out is “going quickly.”
The lack of moisture and hay are playing a part in conditions there.
What rain that has fallen has been followed by relatively strong and consistent winds, sucking the moisture that has fallen out of the ground.
Saint Barker, an 80-plus-year old farmer in Pulaski County, sat on his front porch on a sunny, windy spring afternoon and declared “if the wind would just stop blowing.” Pulaski County is not in the designated “abnormally dry” area but seems typical of the slow grass growth most of the state is experiencing.
Further to the southwest people have turned out cattle, Blevins reported, because they have fed all their hay.
With its planting season just arriving, Blevins said the dry weather is not yet a factor for tobacco in his county which is an important part of the burley tobacco belt.
If it rains soon, he predicted, things will be okay.
If not, it could be a problem.
Teutsch and Fiske both agreed that good rains in the immediate future can still turn things around and give the state a good growing season even if it has gotten off to a late start.