Andrea's Corner: Too much of a good thing! Rainfall impacts on the growing season in the South

We here in the South have had an overabundance of rain this spring and summer, especially this last month or so. Earlier this year, in the spring the continuous rain prevented my own family and many others from being able to put in our spring gardens. No peas, no watermelons, no peppers, green beans, purple hull peas, black berries, cantaloupes. A few stray cucumber plants with no taste and bad color, a few tomato plants saved from drowning by being in planters not in the ground. And that is all. Many people who normally can, freeze and put up their harvest, have nothing to show for it this year. That is on a small scale, which is a big deal for us individuals. But there are much larger problems.

Have any of you noticed that the peaches, watermelons and such that we’ve been buying, don’t exactly taste quite right? There’s a reason for that. There has been so much water that it has diluted the sugar content in the fruit. To put it bluntly, things that are growing in the ground, are drowning.

Rainfall amounts in Georgia have been 34 percent above normal and the rest of the Southern states have been between 22-25 percent above normal. Watermelon growers have been harvesting about half of what they used to. This is because half of their watermelons are rotting in the field. Corn is molding or the stalks are falling over. Crops are just drowned, molding or falling over. Pecans in the South may suffer come fall from a Scab disease. I will be watching my own pecan trees for this problem, last year squirrels took all my pecans, this year…a disease possibly.

This time last year, most of the South was dealing with dangerously hot weather and a drought, this year; it’s wetter and much, much cooler. Here lately we have rarely gotten over 90 degrees. Which seems high to some people but for us, we are used to temperatures in the triple digits, combined with high humidity. Later this week, here in Tennessee our low temperature is supposed to be in the 50’s.That is not normal, at all. We depend on the hot drier weather to mature crops; we have not had either hot or dry.

From the NY Times

Another problem facing farmers is that they just cannot get their equipment into the fields to spray for weeds, or in some parts, to harvest.

Here in West Tennessee for grain farmers the problem isn’t so much the rain but not being able to  spray for fungus, I spoke to two farmers wives to get the inside info on what’s going on with their farms.

I asked one who’s name I’ll withhold “Has the excess rain affected ya’lls crops and day to day operations? And if so, how?”

She said, “The yields are expected to be better during harvest, but with it muddy they can’t get into the field to spray should the weeds come up. All in all the weeds haven’t been bad though. Other than that we won’t know until harvest begins which will be in the next couple of weeks. My husband says ‘rain makes grain’ I guess. He just mentioned this time of year they’re getting ready to apply fungicide, but if it doesn’t stop raining, they’ll have to turn to crop dusting. He’s heard that tomato farmers are having trouble with their tomatoes growing too fast and busting. We’re expecting record yields, but produce farmers are having troubles he said.”

I asked Nacole Hilliard, “How is the rain affecting crops? Is it bothering ya’ll or you’re day to day operations?”

She said, “It’s making us money each time. Usually in August we are begging God for rain in a 100 degree drought!”

“Is it affecting getting in the fields to spray?”

“Yes but the benefit from water outweighs the not being able to spray like by a hundred times!” she said.

So it appears that at least here in West Tennessee there are benefits and there are draw backs but depending upon what you are farming. If you are growing grain, the crops are doing well but there’s problems spraying. If you grow produce, the story seems to be quite different. The ones that grow produce, like the farmers of the famous Ripley tomatoes, they are probably experiencing the same difficulties that the small gardeners are but just on a much larger scale.

I know most people, especially if they are not familiar with growing things, would think that the more rain you have, the better off the plants. That’s actually not the case. Up till my Grandma’s generation, my family has been farmers for probably centuries. My Dads Creek family grew sugar cane, and in the centuries prior to that, the Creek Indians were primarily farmers, my Dad grew up picking cotton, and my great grandparents all farmed, vegetables and cotton. And I grew up with a mother with a green thumb, who was not above telling the workers in Lowes that they were drowning their flowers. If it’s one thing I do know about, it’s how to make plants grow. Although I’m more adept with plants you can eat, rather than the ones that are pretty to look at. This is the thing, on a very basic level; plants die if you don’t water them. HOWEVER, plants ALSO die, if you drown them! If the roots stay too wet, too long, they rot. The roots of a plant are what suck up the water to deliver water and nutrients to the plant, destroy the roots, and destroy the plant. And that is the gest of the problem facing the South’s farmers. Last year they didn’t have enough water, this year, they have too much! You can have too much of a good thing.


Andrea Lead Blogger Mr Twister