Soggy weather stunting progress on Virginia farms

AFP Correspondent

(May 30, 2017) Prolonged wet weather across Virginia is putting progress on farms further behind, several Extension agents said last week.
“Everything has ground to a halt,” Pittsylvania County Extension agent Stephen Barts said.
He said his Central Virginia area had received from four to six inches of rain since May 21. Before that, it had just dried out from the earlier storms and flooding of the Dan River.
Fungi and plant diseases may be one of the major problems as the growing season progresses, conversations with Extension agents said.
One agent said effects can reach into the fall harvest due to delayed plantings of vegetables.
Seeds washing away or rotting are another problem.
Ursula Deitch, agriculture agent on the Eastern Shore’s Northampton County said the potato crop is already being affected by disease.
Farmers are shifting to hiring ag pilots to make aerial applications of preventive chemicals as they can’t get into water-logged fields.
Throughout the state and much of the region, wheat farmers have been spraying using helicopters to apply fungicide to fight fursarium head blight, Dr. Wade Thomason, an Extension grains specialist at Virginia Tech said.
He added the cold, rainy conditions are very good for the disease’s development.
Tobacco is a major crop in Pittsylvania where Barts said 70 to 75 percent of the tobacco has been planted.
He said if it stopped raining on May 25 it would be near the last of this week before they could get in the fields to plant.
He said the tobacco growers are nervous as they now anticipate higher disease pressure this year.
The tobacco also needs to be cultivated a couple times or as they say in Southside, “shook,” to aerate the roots.
Barts said he does not see this happening this year. Also unplanted tobacco that has been in greenhouses since February awaiting planting is being stressed.
Farmers along the Dan River which flooded earlier had just replanted when the latest round of rain hit them. Barts said he doesn’t expect them to be able to replant a second time.
“Everybody is not in the most jovial mood,” he said, clearly understating the situation.
Back on the Eastern Shore Deitch said planting crops including corn, soybeans and vegetables such as tomatoes has been delayed.
Melanie W. Barrow, a horticulture Extension agent in Henry County, said landscapers in her areas have not been able to apply preventive herbicides due to the moisture. She reported that vineyard growers there are also falling behind in their regular applications.
Vegetable growers in her county have been affected by the flooding during the spring. They have had to replant two and three times. This will throw their harvests into the fall, she said.
She said a straight-line wind event a couple of weeks ago did some damage to trees as well.
Barrow said she is not aware of any hay being cut in Henry County due to the excess moisture.
In far Southwest Virginia, Phil Blevins, Extension agent in Washington County reported farmers there are behind in first cutting of hay. He said they are planting corn and most of the tobacco has been set.
“There’s plenty of grass,” he said of his major grazing county. “It’s better than feeding hay in August like last year.”