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Hot, dry weather takes toll on Halifax crops

It’s hot, and little if any relief is in sight this week. 

County residents aren’t expected to see any changes in the extreme heat until the latter part of next week, according to Blacksburg National Weather Service Meteorologist Patrick Wilson.

Wilson said he expects the highs for the next couple of days to be in the 90s with an anticipated drop to highs in the 80s by the end of next week.  

The meteorologist also predicted a slight chance of much-needed moisture in the form of thunderstorms over the weekend.

“It’s abnormally dry. It’s not a drought just yet, but you’re almost there. It’s below average as far as rainfall goes,” Wilson added.

He said it always seems to be dry in this area which is approaching six inches below the normal precipitation mark.  

“It’s been pretty much like this the whole summer, maybe since spring,” Wilson said.

 According to South Boston Water Plant Superintendent Randy Cage, as of Tuesday the South Boston area has received about two-tenths of an inch of rain.

The extreme heat and the lack of precipitation is taking its tolls on crops across the county.

Crops are beginning to show the effects of lack of moisture, according to Halifax County Agricultural Development Director Leah Brown.

“How the plant will do will depend on how much rainfall we get,” Brown said.

Just driving by some county farms, Brown said it seems like the tobacco is holding up. However, she confirmed the corn crop is shriveling up.

Crops like soybean can be hurt if there is no rain soon, she added.

Halifax County Farm Bureau President Scott Crowder was quick to agree with the county ag director. 

“The tobacco is not completely gone. If we get some rainfall in July, we still might be able to make a good crop,” Crowder said. “The forecast is promising.”

 According to Virginia Cooperative Extension Program Assistant and Master Gardener Coordinator Bill McCaleb, cantaloupes have survived the dry period and are available at farmers markets and stores.  

Squash and cucumbers are suffering, but they were doing well until all the recent heat. 

McCaleb said he is hoping for a comeback next week.  

Corn has been highly affected, he added. Those with irrigation should be OK, but those without irrigation won’t have as much corn.

 McCaleb said because of a longer warm season, insects tend to reproduce more often, and there have been problems with stink bugs damaging plants and worms in tomatoes. 

Because of the dry air, there are not as many problem fungi on the plants though.  

Vineyards can be happy, McCaleb said, because a dry year makes a sweeter grape for the wine.

County farmer Del. James Edmunds II of Halifax said his farm is showing the stress of this hot and dry period.

“This is the driest weather and most extreme heat we’ve seen. It has put our corn crop in the worst possible scenario,” Edmunds said.

The heat and drought hit right at the time his corn was coming into tassle.

“If we don’t get some rain in the next few days, I won’t have a corn crop,” Edmunds said of the 200 acres he has planted.

The same is true of the 60 acres of soybeans in the field thirsting for moisture.

“If it doesn’t rain soon, we won’t see those either,” he added.

The extreme heat and drought hasn’t affected his wheat crop, which Edmunds described as “fairly decent.”

Edmunds said his crops have only seen about one-tenth of an inch of rain in the last three weeks, while other areas of the county have received some soaking rains.

Despite the heat, Edmunds said crops can survive if they get moisture, but when the two combinations hit, it often spells doom for farmers.

“All you can do is just pray,” Edmunds added.