Local News

Farmers Hope Fields Dry Out In Time To Salvage Crops Soaked By Storms

Posted August 19, 2004

— Heavy rain from

Hurricane Charley

continues to cause problems for farmers in the eastern part of North Carolina.

The concern is not just about underground crops, like peanuts and sweet potatoes. The rain also raises fears about fungus and disease.

Farmers in Halifax County are racing against the clock in a battle with wet fields. Some farmers saw a month's worth of rain in a matter of days.

A harvester stuck in the middle of Sam Whitehead's tobacco field is the latest example of how too much rain can turn a blessing into a soggy mess.

"Well, it slowed us down this week," he said. "We had to wait a couple of days to let the hurricane rains dissipate a little bit."

The ground is still too soft to handle heavy equipment, like tobacco harvesters. Tobacco leaves must be harvested now.

"It's probably going to ripen quicker than normal. So we are limited by barn space as far and getting tobacco in before it cures or drowns on the stalk," Whitehead said.

Heavier rains also means the other crops, like soybeans, must be tended to. Farmers are worried about fungus and insects.

Halifax County farmers are thankful Hurricane Charley did not destroy what, up until now, was a near perfect growing season.

"A lot of stress -- it really was," farmer Rob Fleming said. "A good year like this, I think it's a real big opportunity and a hurricane would hurt."

As the fields dry out, farmers turn to other chores like tuning up cotton pickers for next month's harvest.

While most farmers only dealt with a lot of rain, farmers in several counties down east also suffered serious wind damage to crops like corn.

The state Department of Agriculture says damage from Hurricane Charley and Tropical Storm Bonnie caused an estimated $55 million in crop damage.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused $813 million in damage to crops.

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