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Rainfall gives hope to Halifax County farmers

“It was a Godsend for farmers,” said Bruce Pearce, Halifax County Soil and Water Conservation District manager, describing the torrential rain that soaked Halifax County the past three days. Some areas of the county reported nearly 4 inches of rain as of Thursday. “We had 3.5 inches in Vernon Hill,” Pearce said.

Halifax County Extension Agent Grace Hite agrees. “Just a few weeks ago we were making the request for drought designation for Halifax County, and now, over the past few days, many parts of the county have experienced over 3 inches of rain.

“Although the very much needed rain is welcome, Halifax farmers are not in clear sailing yet,” she said.

The rainfall especially was a blessing for the county’s tobacco farmers. “This rain will probably make the tobacco crop,” said Pearce. “It will be a late maturing crop.

Hite agreed, saying, “The rainfall will improve the quality of this year’s crop and restore water reserves which have been depleted via irrigation by many tobacco producers.”

“The problem for farmers will be getting the crop in before the first frost,” Pearce added. “It’s a Catch-22 situation.”

The extension agent also foresees a late tobacco crop. “Producers who were not able to irrigate throughout the growing season should expect a late crop with potentially early frosts as their concern,” Hite explained.

Pearce said the recent rain also would benefit farmers in other ways. “This week’s rainfall will help pastures too,” he said.

“The only thing of concern is the amount of damage to the stand of grass by this summer’s heat and drought,” Pearce added.

Hite said the rainfall may have come too late for some crops. “To give a brief update, this year’s corn crop is essentially a complete loss,” she explained. “There is potential for soybean yields to improve as a result of these rains, especially among late maturity group soybean varieties.”

The extension agent said in many counties east of Halifax County farmers are having a difficult time with corn earworm damage in soybeans.

“The earworm population has shifted from corn to soybeans, and the insects are feeding on the soybean pods,” Hite said. “This is of major concern for Halifax producers as well, for this could negatively impact soybean yields. Producers are advised to monitor their fields to determine infestation levels and proceed accordingly.”

Hite said animal performance will definitely improve as a result of the recent rains. “Summer annual grasses, such as crabgrass, will germinate and provide an increase in forage for beef cattle,” she said.

She also said the rains will stimulate grass growth for fall grazing. “A large percentage of beef producers have been feeding hay for one or even two months before these most recent showers,” she said. “Hay very likely will be in short supply this winter, so rainfall and grass growth now is crucial.”

Although the rain totals since Tuesday were significant, the rainfall total for Halifax County is still 4.7 inches below normal for the year, according to data released by the National Weather Service (NWS).

Before the rain that doused the county Tuesday, NWS officials said the greatest amount of rainfall was a mere quarter of an inch that fell Aug. 5. To date, there have been 11 days in August with no measurable rainfall, according to NWS data.