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Weekend rainfall brings relief for many local farmers, causes damage in Portal

Bulloch County farmers likely breathed a collective sigh of relief when the skies opened up early Saturday, dumping up to seven inches of slow, steady rainfall across the county for more than 24 hours. But the much-needed rain was far from a drought-buster.
    Still, the rain, which came in a slow, day-long soaking, has given farmers hope and sent many of them scurrying to plant crops they had just about given up hope of getting into the ground, said Bulloch County Agent Pat Todd.
    "I've seen (trucks carrying) several pallets of soybean seeds today," he said Monday afternoon.
    The rain came mostly courtesy of Tropical Storm Barry, which formed in the Gulf of Mexico late last week and then moved through Florida, Georgia and on up the Eastern Seaboard. Saturday's windy conditions caused some trees limbs to fall, especially in the Portal area, but caused no major damage.
    Many farmers were facing filing insurance claims for lost crops, but the rainfall over the weekend may have changed some minds, he said. "We've got some farmers who will have some decisions to make" whether to plant late soybeans, cotton and peanuts.
    Cattle farmers were happy to see the rain as well. Following last year's hay shortage, the drought this year has been even more painful as pastures withered and hay fields remained short and brown.
    The rainfall varied over the county, with some areas only getting two inches, Todd said.
    "I've heard anywhere from as little as two inches to as much as seven-plus," he said. "I think most of the county got a lot of rain."
    The southern end of the county around the Bryan County line received the least amount - two to  three inches of rainfall - "which is still a lot" considering the drought, he said.
    The rain helped everything - corn, peanuts, soybeans and cotton that has already been planted, but "the best thing is the pastures," he said. "The grass has already responded."
    Cattle grower Bill Smith said Monday the rainfall was a blessing, but more is going to be needed if a hay crop is made, and even then, it will be a month before farmers begin cutting.
    "It definitely makes a difference, but pastures are not doing well," he said. "Even those we irrigated aren't doing that well."
    "It's going to need a follow-up," Todd said. "But this grass will be back to growing, and we may get a hay cutting in three to four weeks."
    Bermuda grass bounces back fast, he said.
    Smith said the recent rains will wake the grass up, but more is needed for it to get growing.
    "Most of the grass is depressed, in a dormant state," he said. "It will take it a week" to get growing.
    When it does, the rains may be here to help it. According to information taken Monday from Yahoo! Weather (www.yahoo.com), more rain is expected next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Internet web site predicted a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms June 12 and 13.
    It is possible for more rain today as well, according to the web site, which predicted a 40 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms and scattered rainfall before midnight.
    "This rain is a savior," Todd said. While the corn planted earlier in the season that has already started tasseling, but is short in height, the rainfall may not  make a big difference, but for the corn that has not begin to tassel (form pollen tassels that lead to the formation of ears), the rain is a shot in the arm.
    "For the majority (of corn  planted in Bulloch County) it will help," he said. "It definitely is going to help it bounce back."
    Corn that was twisted and thirsting last week was verdant and lush after the weekend rains.
    "We were proud to get (the rainfall)," Smith said. "We were blessed to have a good wetting."

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