Hyde County, across Pamlico Sound from Ocracoke Island North Carolina is pretty much square in the bull’s eye of Hurricane Irene, and John Burleson, an independent agronomist in Hyde County, NC has been helping prepare farmers for the storm:
"Well, corn harvest is probably 80 to 85% complete, which is good. Most guys are wrapping that up this week. That's about the only crops that are being harvested. Most farmers are concerned about wind and rain in terms of the cotton at the stage it is in. Obviously, we stand to lose any cotton that is open. In terms of the soybean crop, that's anywhere from R2 to R6 stage, which is flowering up to the seed producing stage. So, I think our older, full season bean varieties could face some lodging problems with wind, our younger beans stand to take some water damage if we get the amount of rain that is forecasted. So, it's really not a good situation for the bean crop or cotton crop."
With this year’s drought, soybeans have suffered from lesser corn stalk borer, and Burleson says that whatever rain Irene brings, will be welcome:
"Everybody is tieing down what they can to secure things, moving equipment away from buildings I think. One blessing from this moisture, we've had a terrible problem with lesser corn stalk borer in soybeans and that's been brought about by dry weather. So, I think that this will help alleviate this problem, because some producers... they're going to take a big loss to their soybean crop because of this pest. I think the rain will definitely help with that."
Burleson says that most producers are nervous about saturated soils:
"Ten inches of rain for an extended period is not good on anything. We are below sea level in a lot of areas in this county so it just depends on how fast the water can get out. A lot of growers are able to pump the water off their land. While most years, water is the limiting factor in Hyde county... how successful you're going to be. Hasn't been that case in the last few years because we've been dry but saturated soils is not good for any crop."
It’s not just torrential rain that producers worry about, but it’s salt water from the expected storm surge:
"That's a major problem. I've got a couple of growers I work with who, the majority of their land is within two miles of the Pamilco sound and they're very worried about that. And there's nothing... once you get salt water on your land there's not a fix for that. Thankfully, we have a good dyke system with floodgates to help keep saltwater out. But if the water breaches those dykes, it's another problem, that's what happened with Isabelle, again it's just how quick that water can get out of here once the wind shifts."
Agronomist John Burleson in Hyde County, North Carolina.