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Rain threatens crops
Too much water can cause stunted or excessive growth or disease in plants
070213 CROPS FLOODING 01
A cotton field on Neville Dairy Road is flooded after heavy rains this week. Experts say recent rainfall in the area have the potential to create damage to crops, including cotton, corn and hay. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Rain may be a good thing, but in excess, it can mean chaos for crops.
    Torrential rainfall over the past week threatens local crops with disease, delayed growth, or even too much growth, said Terry Brinson, a crop insurance adjuster who works with farmers in Bulloch and other area counties.
    Cotton is one crop facing danger. As water stands in the fields, cotton growth is halted and disease growth begins. Some cotton fields in Bulloch County already show signs of stress.
    Farmers worry because “cotton is stressed due to too much rain,” he said. “Cotton is a complex plant and likes dry weather more than wet.”
    According to Internet website www.news.utcrops.com, “Heavy rainfall reduces soil oxygen content, increases pressure from seedling disease pathogens and can cause soil crusting. Waterlogged conditions for 24 to 36 hours will prevent a supply of oxygen to the root system. After 36 hours of waterlogged conditions roots may die leading to the death of seedling plants.”
     Too much rain can also delay fertilizer application, and the gloomy, wet weather over the past 10 days in Bulloch and surrounding counties meant lower temperatures and less sunshine, which are important to the cotton crops, he said.
    Candler County agent David Spade said wet weather can also encourage fungus and disease.
    “You lose photosynthesis when there is not so much sunshine,” he said. Weather such as the area has experienced over the past several days can affect pollination and the warm dampness means disease and fungi will thrive and “spread more rapidly.” If the rainfall continues, cotton and other crops could suffer loss of foliage.
    “This is ideal weather for disease on all crops,” he said. “Limb rot, white mold, Northern corn blight are some.”
    While some may think lots of rain means lots of crops, it really means less quality for some, such as hay, Spade said.
    “We’re not growing any rice, but if we were, (the weather) would be most ideal,” he said. “Some (farmers) are saying they should have planted rice. Excessive rain is not helping anything right now.”
    Depending on the stage, even corn, which thrives on rain, is on the verge of danger. “Lack of sunshine is detrimental,” he said. Pollination issues can mean poor crop — pollination is hampered by wet weather.
    It is true that heavy rain makes grass grow, but hay farmers will lose quality even if they gain in quantity, he said. Hay grass will grow tall with woody stems, but the nutrition, found in the blades, is lessened.
    Hay harvest is a challenge as well. When the grass is ready to harvest, it “takes about three days” of dry weather to mow, tedder and then bale the hay. With threat of thunderstorms daily, this has been a true concern, he said.
    National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Lamb, with the National Weather Service in Charleston, S.C., said “an unusual weather pattern” will mean rain is likely through the rest of the week, but rainfall chances will lessen after Wednesday.
   
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.   

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