For farmers across the state, 2013 was probably the wettest growing season in living memory. Rains came early and often, leaving waterlogged roots and unreachable fields. The only bright spots, it seems, were the peanut crops.
During the Clemson University Edisto Research and Education Center Peanut and Corn Field Day, area growers heard what has become a familiar tale this year.
“It’s pretty grim, said John Mueller, Extension soybean pathologist and director of the Edisto center. “We literally went through six weeks or more when you couldn’t get in the field.
“To the best of my knowledge, we’ve not had this much rain in one season before,” he said.
Across the Edisto station, corn crop yields are down by at least 30 percent. Soybeans yields are not yet known, but expected to fall short of state average yields. And cotton, a mainstay crop of the South, probably has suffered the greatest losses.
During June, when young cotton crops make the most progress, all-too-frequent rain and almost constant cloud cover stopped the crops’ growth. After large single storms, such as tropical systems, crops are often damaged, but not entirely, and can recover.
In simple terms, this season’s weather messed with simple science.
“It all starts with sunlight, and we weren’t getting any,” Muller said. “Photosynthesis couldn’t happen.”
The annual field day featured field tours that included updates on new and experimental Virginia and runner peanut varieties, soil-borne disease research and insecticide trials, and grain sorghum production in the Savannah Valley.
It also included a corn field tour and presentation that featured reviews of corn weed and insect management, and a disease review.
Despite the talk of lost crops and revenue, peanuts provided a glimmer of hope.
Scott Monfort, Extension peanut specialist, said that overall, peanuts probably fared better than any other crop. Timing of the growing season likely spared the crops from the heaviest rains, which could see yields at no worse than historical averages.
Some fields will do better than others, Monford said, with yields likely to range from 3,000 pounds per acre to 2.5 tons per acre. The picture will become clear a month from now when farmers bring their crops in from the fields.
“Overall,” Monford said, “I'm pretty pleased with the crop — based on how much water we've had.”