Rain may salvage seasons crops

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Late last week, LSU AgCenter County Agent Glen Daniels was warning of an agricultural nightmare if the area didn&8217;t get some rain soon.

Everything planted but that had not yet come up would be in danger of dying and it is getting late to replant corn or early soybeans, he said.

&8220;If I could order up some rain,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;d order two-and-a-half inches over two days, nice and slow.&8221;

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Well, he got less than half that amount on Friday, but local farmers said they could live with it for the moment.

&8220;We needed the rain,&8221; David Yates said. &8220;Below Vidalia, we only got about four-tenths (of and inch) which was better than nothing, but not as much as I&8217;d hoped for.&8221;

That much rain might allow farmers working lands close to the river to get their remaining cotton and soybeans in the ground, he said, thanks to the soil&8217;s light, slightly sandy composition.

In other parts of the parish, however, where the soil is more thick and clay-like, more rain fell, with some areas getting just over an inch of rain.

Ron Gregg said the inch he got at his Ferriday house would be enough to moisten cracking soil, making the last of the soybeans plantable.

As for cotton, however, he was less optimistic.

&8220;Cotton&8217;s going to need another rain like this, but that ain&8217;t gonna happen,&8221; he said.

Gregg said his sense of foreboding was well founded by the nearly perfect winter and early spring.

&8220;In the past, whenever it&8217;s looked too good to be true, it has been,&8221; he said.

It was the relative lack of precipitation this winter and early spring that gave farmers time to get their fields prepared and planted early. Three weeks ago, farmers were raving about the weather and planting conditions, calling them &8220;planting perfect&8221; among other superlatives.

Even until last week, Daniels said the dryness helped toughen the early corn and soybeans, forcing their roots to grow downward and making them stronger and better able to find moisture during later dry spells.

&8220;When it&8217;s wet, the roots spread out shallow and are more likely to die when it gets dry,&8221; he said.

The dry weather has also been a tool for keeping the spread of Asian soybean rust down early in the season.

But as much advantage as the dry weather gave farmers early in the year, eventually you need some rain to whet the whistle.

Besides the current-year livelihood of his farmers, Daniels also has the fate of next year&8217;s crop to think about.

As the overseer of some dozen or more demonstration, sentinel and verification plots, Daniels is part of the quasi-research and development programs the various state agriculture extensions run on behalf of better farming practices.

Without the advances tested in those local plots, farmers wouldn&8217;t see nearly the increases in yield and technology that they have in recent years.

&8220;I&8217;m blessed, most of these farmers do it even though they have to do the work but they see the importance of it,&8221; he said.

And while the weekend&8217;s rain might be enough to get these demonstration plots, and most of the rest of farmers&8217; regular crop, in the ground, everybody knows we&8217;ll need more soon.

&8220;This was good enough for now, but in another week or so, we&8217;ll need to get some more,&8221; Yates said.