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Heavy rains put farming on hold

A thundercloud billows high in the sky on May 7. The cloud was more than 30 miles away, but appears to be over silos at a Hartfield farm. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

During the first 9 days of May, more than 4.2 inches of rain fell on Middlesex County, said Middlesex Extension Agent David Moore.

Recent downpours brought yearly rain totals through May 9 to 16.5 inches—nearly half of the total rain for all of 2007, when just 35.2 inches was measured at Saluda.

In 2008, there was 44 inches of rain measured in Saluda.

The area was doused with 3.4 inches on May 4-5. Last week’s storms brought the area year-to-date rainfall up to “average.”

Early May rainfall has been considerably above average and that has hindered farming, added Moore. Corn planting was already behind schedule, and wet soggy fields are still waiting to be planted in some areas. Some corn fields are having germination and emergence problems in heavy, cool soils due to the heavy rains that occurred after planting.

Wheat producers want a cool, dry May to make a good crop, said Moore. “We have the cool, but not the dry,” he said. “Several wheat producers applied preventative fungicides a few weeks ago and others are now applying control fungicides this week.”

Fungicides are for powdery mildew and other leaf and head diseases that can decrease yields and affect the quality of small grains, Moore explained.

Wet weather is holding back farmers who are anxious to cut hay or plant full-season soybeans.

Light rainfall in January (1.75 inches) and February (.3 inch) was significantly below the monthly averages.

Historically, months with the most rainfall are usually July, because of thunderstorms, followed by September, because of hurricane activity, said Moore.

posted 05.13.2009

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