Lack of rainfall affecting crops around Blount County, state
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hot temperatures over the past several weeks, including consecutive days of 100 degrees or more, have put a halt of the growth of crops statewide and have made livestock production more difficult.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released this week showed 94 percent of the state’s crops short on topsoil moisture — in other words, they are experiencing a major drought.
John Wilson, county director for the UT-Blount County Extension Service, said the drought has had an impact from a cropping standpoint and livestock aspect.
“Without moisture or any relief soon, the potential may well be not any saving any harvests for the remainder of this season,” Wilson said. “The extreme heat is critical on cattle and other livestock.”
Wilson said although last year’s hot weather was extreme on crops, this year is taking shape to be more severe.
The USDA reported that almost half the corn statewide is rated in very poor or poor condition with two-thirds of the pastures in this same category. Soybean, tobacco and cotton acreage remained in mostly fair-to-good condition, but declined substantially in one week.
Some farmers are hauling water to livestock as springs fail and ponds dry up. They are also having to feed hay early.
In Blount County, the owners of the Coning Family Farm and of the Butler Farm told The Daily Times Tuesday that although the drought hasn’t affected their produce sales much, it could be disastrous for both farms in the near future if more rainfall doesn’t come soon.
“We don’t have (our crops) insured. I don’t have a Plan B,” said James Butler, owner of the Butler Family Farm. “Most of the time a drought hurts, but won’t wipe us out. The heat hurts us worse than the dry, because it was so hot.”
Billy Coning, whose father, Albert, owns the Coning Family Farm, said the farm uses an irrigation system to combat dry weather, but it doesn’t keep their crops out of danger.
“We just control it, and when it gets dry, we start putting out irrigation and try to get a crop that way,” Billy Coning said. “It can look like a PVC pipe and a hose just like the fire department uses. It can run an unbelievable distance, and we will run it for a day, check it and run it another day. We don’t call it a Plan B — for a lot of stuff, it’s plan A. When it starts getting dry, if you don’t water the crops, you won’t get anything.”
“The drought came at one of the worst times,” Albert Coning said, specifically referring to his corn crop. “We haven’t got a crop made, and when you get a half a crop made, you get smaller kernels, and pretty soon there are no ears on this corn. I have seen a lot of corn turn white, and this will be a total loss. It comes to a point where we have nothing to sell. The vegetable production, not just this county but surrounding counties, will be affected, especially the green bean crop. The consumer doesn’t want things like that. Peppers and tomatoes run into the same things we run into with the corn. They have the white spots on them, and the tomatoes are sunburned so bad that they aren’t sellable.”
Butler said that some of his most popular selling items have been ripened by the sun instead of on the vine, which makes the quality go down.
“I had a lot of my cantaloupes get sun-ripened instead of vine-ripened because of the heat,” he said. “The vines on my watermelons went down a lot. They settled, and when I go to the field I could see watermelons instead of just vines, and now they’re going to sun-blister, probably.
“As far as my beans go, I was pumping water and they made it,” Butler continued. “A lot of my cabbage blistered. You can’t tell what (the weather) has done until two or three weeks from now. I don’t grow a lot of corn, so we don’t have to worry. Most of my stuff is on water. Although I was watering it, I still have a lot of damage. The tomatoes is what it really hurt — it just blistered them, and I lost a few peppers. I will not really know how much it hurts. I had high hopes — now I just hope we survive it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.