by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
“I gave up trying to keep track of all the rain,” said Matt Booher, Virginia Cooperative Extension Unit Coordinator Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources Crop & Soil Sciences.
Booher has been an extension agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension since 2012 and oversees Augusta, Rockbridge and Rockingham counties. He lives in the Shenandoah Valley.
“It has caused planting delays, drowned-out corn and beans, nitrogen deficient corn and hay, and a lot of erosion,” Booher commented.
A graduate of Virginia Tech, independent cattle nutritionist David Michalak of MME Nutrition, Inc., Greencastle, PA, works with clients from multiple Mid-Atlantic states.
Michalak, who has been a nutritionist for 18 years, says his clients have been discussing the wet weather conditions with him as crops, such as alfalfa have lost quality.
“It’s put a damper on making good alfalfa,” remarked Michalak. “This year a lot of the alfalfa first crop is going to be made into heifer hay because it’s not good enough for the cows.”
Michalak said further south in Maryland and Virginia, farmers have had even harder times getting in the field and have also had to do a lot of replanting, where they could access the fields.
“After the first week in May this area has probably experienced about 20 inches of rainfall- and it may be a lot more than that because some areas in the south and Maryland experienced 10 – 11 inches in one evening,” Michalak reported. “It’s just been a different weather pattern and we’ve experienced a lot of wet weather.”
Michalak said corn that has already established a good stand would probably withstand the onslaught of rain.
“When it’s warmer the plants do still grow. That’s the one benefit we’ve had this year. For the most part, corn that was planted early, the end of April and the beginning of May, and got off to a decent start, even with all of the rain fall it took off because we had warmer temperatures than last year.”
However, he points out that the extremely wet conditions drain so much nutrition out of the plant, it is unlikely to be as productive as it would be under normal weather conditions.
“You will have some leaching of minerals, such as nitrogen, which is essential for plant growth and leaching of phosphorus in early plant life.”
Michalak explained the importance these minerals play in plants to grow and be productive.
Soil testing is advisable to determine what minerals need to be replaced.
Alfalfa was hit hard because farmers were unable to get into their fields for harvesting in a timely manner.
“The alfalfa was so tall that it started to lay over and it was so wet underneath, basically it created this big mat of blackness and wetness underneath it,” Michalak said. “The fields were just sopping wet.”
Michalak also commented on the wet conditions impacting small grain crops.
“Small grains, such as barley and wheat, can be affected by molds because the crop cannot dry down properly and the rains can also cause low test weight.”
Scott Baker is Unit Coordinator and Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources – Animal Science, with the Bedford County office of Virginia Cooperative Extension.
“In my area we are approximately 10 inches above average for 2018,” reported Baker. “However it is quite variable with some locations receiving much less rain than others. April, May and June were above average. This led to some delays in planting as well as a delay in the first hay cutting.”
On Friday, June 22, the Richmond, VA area was hard hit with nearly 8 inches of rain, experiencing the second-wettest day on record for that area. At one point, Richmond International Airport was forced to close down for more than two hours.
According to research statistics, the eastern half of continental U.S. has experienced the most dramatic
rain events, with storms in the Northeast up 71 percent since 1958. Storms are also growing in size and covering more territory than ever before.