Peanut pickers and other farm equipment stand ready in the fields, waiting for the harvest that will come – when the rain stops.
Areas in and around Bulloch County were soaked with up to six inches of rainfall this week, which means problems for farmers hoping to get peanuts, cotton and soybeans harvested, said Bulloch County extension agent Bill Tyson.
“The rain is a setback, especially for peanuts,” he said Wednesday as he drove back to Statesboro from Tifton. “We need a few more weeks of sunshine.”
Peanuts that have been dug, or unearthed, for several days are ready to be picked, but rainfall like the deluge seen Monday and Tuesday can affect the quality of the nuts, he said.
When “digging” peanuts, farmers uproot the crop and lay the plants root-upright so the peanuts can dry out before being harvested. If they are harvested before drying, the peanut can rot or mildew, reducing its quality.
“Mine are still green on the ground and they might be OK,” meaning they haven’t had time to dry and be affected by more rain, said Clint Finch, who operates a farm near Rocky Ford.
However, Finch is concerned about soybeans, which are ready for harvest. If the rains continue, the ground will be too soft and wet for combines to get into the fields. If left unpicked to remain on the bush, soybeans can also be reduced in quality by excessive rain, he said.
Wet weather is also a hazard for cotton farmers, Tyson said: “We have a ways to go on this cotton.”
With the warmer temperatures experienced recently, paired with moisture, cotton seeds inside the bolls can sprout, affecting quality.
With the approaching El Niño weather pattern promising a very wet winter, things don’t look so great, he said. Farmers need “weeks of sunshine” to get crops in safely, he said, but predictions for the next few days aren’t very promising.
According to the National Weather Service in Charleston (www.noaa.gov), patchy drizzle and fog start Thursday with weather remaining cloudy into the night, with warm temperatures reaching 80 degrees.
Friday is expected to be partly sunny, but changes to partly cloudy at night, and there is a 40 percent chance of rain Saturday and Sunday.
However, sunshine may return Monday and stay a few days, according to the forecast reported Wednesday.
“We are wet,” said Bulloch County farmer Jeff Spence, who farms near the Portal area. “We need to be finishing peanuts and starting on cotton.”
A particular area of concern is the “bottom crop” of cotton, at the base of the plant, where moisture is most prevalent. As for the rain, “needed this in August,” Spence said. “We would have had a bumper crop.”
Just three days of sunshine would help him get his peanuts harvested and allow him a start on cotton, he said.
The only good the recent rainfall offers is for farmers planting small gains or rye for grazing, Tyson said.
“We need the sun to shine. There is no good news for you on the next few days.” Without full sunshine after such a soaking rain, crops will remain damp and risk reduction in quality, he said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.