Clay County farmers spared from Hurricane Lily's wrath

Thursday, October 10, 2002

It was a race against Mother Nature last week as Clay County farmers attempted to beat the predicted storms spawned by Hurricane Lily.

County Extension agent/staff chairman Andy Vangilder said the area caught the edge of Isadore, and Lily only produced a reported one-quarter to six-tenths of an inch of rainfall.

"Our cotton is in a real vulnerable state right now," he said. "Luckily, we got just a light, slow rain."

It was good news in what is turning out to be a lackluster year for the county's cotton crop.

Vangilder said the start of the cotton growing season was one of the worst in years, but potential improved with plants growing and fruiting well.

Then in late July and early August, tobacco budworms and cotton bollworms hit with a vengeance.

"They wreaked havoc on our crop and caused damage," he said.

Vangilder said some cotton crops were also infected with verticillium wilt, caused by recent cloudy, rainy periods, such as those in August. He said the wilt causes premature defoliation.

"Cotton is not picking very well," he said. "It's not cleaning up off the stalk as good."

Vangilder said the fiber is stringing, and yields will be down from last year. Currently, he said, dryland cotton is averaging 400 to 650 pounds per acre with irrigated producing a bale and a quarter to a bale and a half.

"We think it will get better in time," he said.

On a brighter note, Vangilder said BT cotton is looking good.

"We're anticipating yields to be better in our BT cotton," he said, adding producers will be growing more of it next year.

Vangilder said corn has made a good crop this year.

"We had a lot of good yields, and some good dryland yields," he said.

Market prices have been up 40 to 50 cents a bushel. He said the county's corn acreage also increased this year to 17,033, according to Farm Service Agency figures.

"Harvest went really well this year," Vangilder said, despite some problems with lodging and corn borers.

Grain sorghum acreage was also up this year with 4,217 acres, reflecting an additional 1,000 acres over last year.

"We're using grain sorghum as a rotation crop for nematode control," Vangilder said.

He said grain sorghum has experienced yield problems in the past, but it has been better this year. He said yields have averaged 4,000 to 5,000 pounds per acre on dryland and 5,000 to 8,000 on irrigated.

"We're still harvesting rice," Vangilder said.

Although there have been some disappointments, he said it has been a good crop with reported yields averaging 170 to 180 bushels per acre.

"We should wrap up rice harvest hopefully this week," he said.

Vangilder said some fields had lodging with others being infected with sheath blight. He noted there were few blast problems this year, but stinkbugs were a concern. He said the insects cause "pecky rice" in milling.

"The discounts for pecky rice are pretty heavy," he said.

Vangilder said soybean harvest is just beginning and believes the dryland results will be good.

"Early Group 4 dryland beans are doing well," he said.

He expects dryland yields to produce 25 to 30 bushels per acre, and irrigated yields are also doing well thus far. He noted it is too early to determine how the bean crop will fare overall.

Vangilder said wheat prices routed in mid- to late September, stirring interest in planting among county farmers even though prices have fallen slightly.

"I think the acreage will be the same if not more this year," he said.

Vangilder said the recommended planting time is Oct. 15 to Nov. 15.

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