Last time we heard from Kent Messick, Section Chief for Field Services for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services-Agronomic Divison, he was traveling the eastern Piedmont and the Coastal Plain looking at a whole lot of water, the product of Tropical Storm Nichole. At that time, crop damage was up in the air, but Messick says that it appears the rain and subsequent standing water was beneficial:
“It appears, generally, that crops were not as damaged as potentially they could have been, would be the best assessment we could make of those events. I think the two biggest crops we had concerns with at that time was cotton and sweet potatoes. It does not appear, at least at this point, that sweet potatoes have had a lot of damage due to excess soil moisture. We had some concerns about them actually beginning to rot in the ground before they could be dug.
Peanuts: the damage does not seem to be extensive, part of the reason for the lack of damage on many crops, particularly in Eastern North Carolina the summer had been so dry, and even the early fall had been dry, that a lot of the water was actually just absorbed by the soil and it replenished moisture conditions that were really needed. So, there doesn’t seem to have been extensive damage at this point.”
Another fear was for the remainder of the tobacco crop:
“Most of the tobacco had been harvested and was out of the field. There was probably some in the northeastern part of the state that suffered more damage from saturated soil conditions, but most of the growers were able to speed up their harvesting schedules and get that out of the field. So, we don’t expect any tremendous damage to the tobacco crop, as well.”
Messick noticed that producers were able to get back into the fields very quickly:
“Surprisingly quickly. More than we probably expected, and again, I think that was probably a result, except in some isolated areas, some of the rain came slowly enough it was primarily absorbed into the soil profile due to the drought we’d had earlier in the summer.”
After it was all said and done, Messick says the summer heat did more damage than the rain in late September and early October. Messick also added that cotton producers have been pleasantly surprised with the high production numbers their crop is bringing in.