Dry weather hamper corn and other crops in northern Alabama


DECATUR, Ala. (AP) – Abnormally dry weather in northern Alabama may have ruined corn plantations and damaged other crops.

“The hot, dry weather just hit corn at the absolute worst time,” said Brady Peek, who farms about 1,800 acres in western Limestone County. “We will be lucky if we even have a corn crop. Yields will be significantly below average.

Ashley Ravenscraft, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville, said parts of Lawrence and Morgan counties had been described as “abnormally dry” since June 21. In Limestone County, 60% of the county has been experiencing moderate drought since June 28. .

From June 21 through Monday, Decatur received just 0.24 inches of precipitation and Moulton received 0.53 inches, Ravenscraft said. Athens, she said, had 1.78 inches of rain during that period, but she attributes the highest number to fleeting downpours over the past few days. Ravenscraft said the average rainfall in July was 4.49 inches.

“Typically at this time of year you get some sort of rain from either tropical systems or your summer storms or some weaker disturbance that will come along and produce rain. It’s usually one of our wettest months of the year, she said.

Ravenscraft said the three counties would need about 4 inches of rain per month to come out of the drought and abnormally dry categories.

“All signals point to at least abnormally dry conditions in late summer and early fall,” she said.

Peek said he rotates what he grows each year. This year, he grew wheat, soybeans and corn.

Peek planted his soybeans the last week of April and the second week of June and will harvest from early to mid-September. He planted his maize in mid-April and will harvest in August. He said everything will have to be harvested earlier because of the dry weather. Peek has already harvested his wheat.

While he said his maize crop could be a total loss, other crops are also suffering.

“Beans still have a long way to go. I was looking at some of them this morning and they clearly need rain,” Peek said Tuesday. “They are still hanging on. There is still a chance that we can harvest there.

Peek said it was too early to tell what yield he would get from his soybeans.

“I would say they took damage. How many, it’s just hard to say yet. The beans definitely need some rain to keep hanging on,” he said.

Peek said crops would be better able to withstand the hot weather if there was rain. He said hot, dry spells are common, but they usually come in August.

“It’s almost a death wish for a lot of these cultures to be like this in June and July,” Peek said. “Once you’re this dry, it’s really hard to get over that.”

Steve Brown, cotton agronomist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, said corn has a narrow window when it needs a lot of moisture or it doesn’t pollinate well.

“Cotton, we still have time to recover assuming we get some precipitation,” Brown said. “It definitely hurts.”

He said the cotton yield could be reduced by 50% this year.

“If we go another three or four weeks without water with this kind of heat, it will have a serious impact on all crops. We could lose 60% of our yield or even 70%,” Brown said.

Peek said one of his farms is irrigated, but irrigation is expensive. He said mass irrigation in northern Alabama is not possible. “We have the water, we just don’t have the infrastructure in place to be able to really use it.”

Brown said only about 10% of Alabama’s crops are irrigated. “If you have extreme drought, it can give you some water, but it can’t sustain the crop during a major and long drought.”

Mark Thompson, owner of One Stop Lawn and Landscaping in Decatur, said he stresses to customers the importance of watering lawns and plants as often as possible.


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