By TRAVIS HANDY
Although a handful of other crops around the region have been affected in some way by the prolonged and seemingly relentless periods of rain this summer, corn is not on that list.
An Aug. 12 report from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) says, “Virginia’s corn yields are expected to be 145 bushels per acre, up 42 bushels per acre from last year. Production is estimated at 46.4 million bushels, up 29 percent from 2012.”
The department estimated harvested acres of corn at 320,000 this year. Other crops, like cotton, peanuts, tobacco, alfalfa hay, winter wheat and barley are expected to be lower than the previous year.
Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Scott McElfresh explained that while ample rain has been good for the crops, it could potentially cause problems for corn later in the season.
“Corn overall looks good this year. The rain has been good for growth and development, but cool weather may slow ear development,” said McElfresh. “We’ll need a break in the rain to get equipment into fields to harvest. Corn silage harvest may be delayed if rain continues, as the corn will not dry as fast.”
Meanwhile, cooler and drier than normal weather in the mid-west has put a strain on corn and soybean crops, leaving producers hoping the weather will turn in their favor, as many farmers in our region did in 2012.
“Last year the rain was good to start the season and tapered off and came in irregular patterns, which caused problems with ear development,” said McElfresh. “This year rain has stayed constant.”
According to agclassroom.org, the majority of Virginia corn is grown for grain and is among the state’s top cash crops.
McElfresh also explained problems facing regional hay and alfalfa crops, noting the weather may cause a loss in hay quality this year.
“Hay and alfalfa crops have been hurt because there is either not enough days between rain, actual or forecast, to cut hay,” he said. “Those who have tried have had cut hay rained on before it could be baled. After the rain stops, fields are often too wet and have to dry so equipment can get on the fields to bale and move hay to storage locations.”
He said other crops, particularly common backyard crops like cucurbits (squash, zucchini and cucumbers), tomatoes and potatoes have had a tough time with fungus due to prolonged wet conditions. McElfresh notes some lucky, proactive backyard gardeners have been able to save their crops.