By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Crops suffering from lack of rain; farmers hoping for wet weather
dry corn for Web
Many corn fields in the area look like this one on Country Club Road, with corn plants twisted due to dry weather. Crops already damaged by a spring freeze fared worse, but even with the twisted leaves, there is still hope for early-planted corn if rain arrives soon. - photo by HOLLI DEAL BRAGG/staff
Like other counties across South Georgia, Bulloch County is hurting for rain. While Friday's late afternoon thunderstorms were welcome, they were the proverbial drop in the bucket.
    Corn that wasn't damaged by a rare spring freeze last month and was planted early enough is holding its own, but some corn fields are sparse, with plants twisted due to dry conditions. And if we don't get rain soon, the bumper crop farmers were hoping for won't happen, said Bulloch County Extension Agent Wes Harris.
    "We went up about 25 percent in corn acreage," he said Friday. "But of we don't start getting some decent rain, the situation will deteriorate."
    Wheat crops in the area are suffering as well. "Wheat got hurt pretty good with the freeze, and combine that with the prolonged drought, the crop is diminished by 30 percent."
    It is unusual for a drought to be so bad during the spring, he said. Usually the dry months come in the summer, but this year, the arid weather came early.
    Some parts of the county are better off than others. The northwestern section of Bulloch received rain a few weeks ago – about two inches around the Portal area, said farmer Al Clark.
    But other areas did not fare so well.
    "Register and Ivanhoe didn't get any rain," he said. "They are really hurting. It's dry for us but those people are in a lot worse shape than we are."
    John Emery Brannen farms in the Register area, and he said this was "the worst spring ever."
    He has a pretty good corn crop coming, because it is irrigated, he said. But having to irrigate so soon in the year is unusual.
    "It's real, real, real dry," he said. "Everybody is starting to sell cattle because they are short of feed. I haven't run into that problem yet."
    But those planting cotton and soybeans will delays if the rains don't come. "They're going to be running behind," Brannen said.
    Harris agreed. "If we don't get any appreciable rainfall ... it will push us back," he said...
    Steve Taylor, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Charleston office, said temperatures will be cooler this weekend due to a cold front coming, but rain will be chancy.
    "Chances are not looking all that great" for rain after Friday in the Bulloch County area any time soon, he said. If anything, the cold front will bring "isolated, scattered thunderstorms, but even if you get that,  it won't do much for the fire (in Ware County) or the drought."
    Harris said hay is a concern as well due to the drought. Some farmers baled peanut hay that has helped get them through the hay shortage over the winter, but if rains don't come, the hay won't grow enough for cutting, he said. "It's like everybody's yard - if it doesn't rain, it's not going to happen."
    Cattle prices are high enough to offset the cost of having to import feed to replace home-grown hay, but overall, the drought is painful for farmers.
    "It is reminiscent of 1990," the last time an early drought wrought havoc on crops.
    But on a positive note, the dry, warm weather has been excellent for the onion crop, he said. "We couldn't ask for any better. We're thankful for that."
    Local farmer Terry Gerrald planted 300 acres in carrots, and the weather has been perfect for those as well, Harris said.
    If rainfall does come in the next few weeks, farmers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. "We can still look for some pretty good things, if it rains," he said. "If not, it's going to be hard to catch up."
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter