Crops battle heat, drought

Published 6:43 am Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The corn has missed the crib.

Even if Mother Nature poured all the “rench” water down on the thirsty red clay fields of South Alabama, it would be too little too late for the corn crop, said Goshen farmer Jimmy Shaver.

“Unless you irrigate, the corn’s gone,” Shaver said. “There may be some spots where the little bit of rain we’ve gotten hit but not many. And, if we don’t get some rain, and I don’t mean showers, I mean a good soaking rain, we’re going to be in a desperate situation with cotton and possibly peanuts.”

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Shaver said “right now” the peanuts are doing all right.

“They’ll need rain when they start to bloom and produce, so they’ll be OK for a while,” he said. “But it’s too dry to get a stand of cotton. It won’t germinate. You can’t plant cotton too deep. It’s not vigorous enough to push out of the ground. You have to plant a half-inch to an inch and there’s no moisture there. If it doesn’t wait too long to rain, the cotton might be all right but, it’ll push the crop back a month.”

Cattle farmers are watching their herds nibble every sprig of grass that comes out and their first cutting of hay could be the last.

“The first cutting of hay won’t be a bumper crop either,” Shaver said. “But, again, if we could get a good rain. What people don’t understand is that to do any good the ground’s got to be real wet for the crops to respond.”

With the corn drying up in the fields, cotton on the fringe of destruction, the peanuts in limbo, the cows nibbling and the hay-making days diminishing, the outlooks is rather grim for most South Alabama farmers.

However, the poultry farmers are beating the heat right now.

“With chickens, we’re not hurting so bad,” Shaver said. “The heat is not affecting the chickens. The reason is that the humidity is low and we can add moisture to the dry air to keep them cool. But, if the humidity is high, we can’t cool them. So, as long as the humidity is low, we can deal with the heat.”

And, dealing with the heat is something that people are going to have to get used to sooner than later, said Jeanna Barnes, Pike County EMA director.

“No heat alert has been issued by the National Weather Service but it’s going to be hot over the next few days with a high of 98 tomorrow (Wednesday) and gradually ‘cooling’ to 91 on Saturday,” Barnes said. “This is South Alabama so we can expect it to be hot during the summer months. The best way to beat the heat is to say inside if possible and, when outside, not to get overheated.”

Barnes said June 1 marks the beginning of the six-month hurricane season and it is predicted to be a busy one.

“The hurricane season is predicted to be above average,” Barnes said. “Historically, in the years where there has been a higher than average number of tornadoes, the hurricane season will also be higher than average.”