Crops need relief from heat, drought

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

As temperatures hover in the high 90s and Mother Nature continues to be stingy with her showers of blessings, it might be time for Pike County farmers to hang dead snakes belly up on the wire fence or learn a rain dance, just anything to bring on the rain.

Jeff Knotts, Pike County USDA Farm Service Agency director, said it’s not time for drastic measures just yet but cooler temperatures and a good steady rain would be helpful all around.

“We’ve had some scattered rain around the county and we had some early rain in May and June and that all helped,” Knotts said. “But the heat and the drought conditions will soon begin to take a toll on the crops.”

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Knotts said yield for the corn that got rain when it needed it should be average.

“Some farmers have planted tropical corn that should start to make in August,” he said. “The advantage of the tropical corn is that it allows farmers to get another crop of corn in. But even tropical corn is going to need some rain on it, or it won’t amount to anything.”

The irrigated corn has weathered the heat and should make a good harvest.

“We don’t have a lot of farmers who irrigate,” Knotts said.

“One reason is that, here in Pike County, we don’t have land that will sustain irrigation equipment. For irrigation, you need flat land. The land here is too terraced. Another reason is that you have to have water to supply the irrigation system. Some land doesn’t have water or enough water to irrigate.”

As for the peanut and cotton crops, Knotts said they are holding their own against the drought conditions and the high heat index.

“Peanuts and cotton are more drought resistant than corn so they can go through hot, dry weather better than corn,” he said.

“But they need rain ASAP and cooler temperatures. With temperatures nearing 100, the rain gets sucked out of the ground. A light rain just doesn’t do any good when the sun is sucking it back up.”

Most farmers have cut hay for a second time and some of them have gotten a third cutting, Knotts said.

“Rain would be very beneficial in carrying them into the next cutting,” he said.

“Cattle are grazing but, when it’s dry like this, they eat the grass down. Already, some farmers are supplementing with hay in areas where grazing has depleted the grass.

“We need cooler weather to keep the pastures up. Cows are beating the heat by hanging round the ponds and under shade trees. When it’s this hot, after a while, the heat has an effect on cattle just like it does on humans.”

Knotts said rain and cooler weather would improve conditions for all commodities and make the outlook for a successful harvest season much brighter.