Rainy May causing issues for farmers

Rainy May causing issues for farmers

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - If you know a farmer, chances are they are hustling to finish planting season and it's come with more hassle than help from Mother Nature.

Planting got off to a slow start after an unusually cool April.

"Last year we started planting April 7, which is really 10 days early, but it was warm," explained Extension peanut specialist Kris Balkcom. "This year was the 27th before we started planting in April."

Farmers were delayed again because of rainstorms.

"The 15th of May rolled around and we started getting some rain and it never quit," Balkcom said. Farmers across the region got anywhere from 5 to 17 inches of rain.

Instead of having roughly two months to plant, farmers are working with just a couple weeks to get seeds in the ground for Alabama's cash crops, cotton and peanuts. The rush is not just to meet the insurance deadlines this week but to keep on track with the long-term schedule.

"We've got to get them planted now because we want them to produce to the full extent. We don't want the cold weather to shut down those crops early," Balkcom stated. "When you're out of the field that long, that can be an issue."

Balkcom says some farmers are also weighing other options to make up for the lost time including taking a "no plant" by not planting and collecting crop insurance or by switching from peanut to cotton because some believe cotton can be planted later in the year.

"Caused a lot to reassess their situation and change their game plan."

According to Balkcom, last year Alabama planted 190,000 acres of peanuts. In 2018, the state was forecasting somewhere around 170,000 acres. During the 3-week dry window, about 65 percent of the forecasted crop was planted.

"There's still 35 percent hanging out there. How much of that 35 percent will get planted of peanuts, how much is going to get left off and how much is going to get swapped for cotton? I imagine they'll be some of all three," Balkcom predicted.

And how many acres are planted and how early or late crops were planted will then dictate the market, so it's a waiting game for consumers.

Rain has not just impacted planting season. It's also impacted the seeds that would be harvested from cover crops. Rain caused some of the seeds to sprout early, which means they won't be any good to harvest and replant.

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