Hurricanes and tropical storms are a two-edged sword. Producers may need the rain that big storms provide, but the winds and other effects are not welcome in cotton production. With the current drought situation, a soaking storm has been greatly needed, and one just has to hope the crop survives the storm’s downside.
In late August, Hurricane Irene swiped the Eastern Seaboard and took several days to move up the coast into Canada. At one time, it was a Category 3 hurricane but slipped to a tropical storm over much of the country. Hurricane Irene did the most damage when it struck land near Cape Lookout, N.C., on the southern tip of the Outer Banks.
Yield Decrease Expected
North Carolina producer Donnie White says the hurricane was tough on him and area producers.
“It destroyed the tobacco crop,” he says. “The cotton was blown and tangled. There is a lot of cotton lying on the ground.”
The North Carolina farmer had just finished spraying defoliant and was hoping to start picking by the third week of September.
“I think we will have a 20 to 30 percent decrease in yield,” says White, who also produces peanuts, popcorn, wheat and soybeans on his farm near Williamston, N.C. “I don’t know how it will affect the grade; I hope it will be better than we think.”
Hardlock Ahead Of Storm
Ames Herbert, Virginia Extension entomologist, says the extent of the damage varied in Virginia by location with the worst of it being in fields that had the tallest cotton.
“A lot of cotton was tangled and lodged, pretty much throughout the entire cotton-growing area of Virginia,” Herbert says.
The Virginia entomologist also notes that winds were strong enough to lie over the cotton and were the most destructive element of Hurricane Irene. But, it was the rainy period after Irene that slowed cotton from being able to straighten out and also slowed the application of harvest aids.
“The lodged cotton will result in some crop injury during applications, and some producers are spraying diagonal to the row or across rows to minimize the damage,” he says.
Further, Herbert says, unusually cool weather and another expected three-day period are not helping at all.
Herbert says producers in his area were already having a problem with hardlock prior to the storms.
“We think that most of our hardlock was because of the very rapid growth of cotton due to the prolonged hotter-than-normal weather in July, which resulted in lower bolls opening in early August during a period with rains and high humidity. There will be a lot of boll lock in the lower bolls.”
Lee Brings Needed Rain
Over Labor Day weekend, Tropical Storm Lee made landfall near New Orleans, La., and began a northeastern trek across the country at a snail’s pace, drenching everything in his path.
Rome Ethredge, Extension agent in Seminole County, Ga., says he was fearful of the effects of Tropical Storm Lee on area cotton, which had been opening beautifully, but the result was better than expected.
“It did look ragged for a few days but is fluffing back out and looks okay in most cases,” he says. “Some cotton was blown out, and the stalks are all twisted up, making it tough to walk out into the field.”
Ethredge says the storm turned out to be more of a blessing with more than an inch and a half of rain that came slowly and soaked in well.
The one state that needs rain more than any other – Texas – received only high winds from Tropical Storm Lee, which made conditions even worse by whipping up devastating fires to ravage the dry land.
For everyone in this proud agricultural state, for Lee to turn east with its life-giving rain was a cruel twist of fate, giving much credence to the quote, “Among famous traitors of history, one might mention the weather.”
Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.