Editor's note: The recent rains have been considered a blessing by some, while those in the agricultural industry are less thankful. Below is the first of a two-part series that addresses the effects of excessive rainfall on crops during the summer months. Part two will appear in Tuesday's Daily Light.
WAXAHACHIE — Over the past two weeks, Ellis County has had several significant rain events. These storms have had a great impact on county’s agricultural community since producers have begun the process harvesting crops by delaying the harvesting of crops.
Currently, Ellis County has more than 370,000 acres dedicated to agriculture use.
“The recent rains we have had are very much needed in a lot of areas and they are very uncommon this time of the year," Ellis County Extension Agent Mark Arnold said. “Normally we don’t get this kind of rainfall in August. Most of our crops here in Ellis County have surpassed the need for that moisture and have matured and are nearing harvest. Such is the case for our corn and milo crops.
"Also, even our soybeans and most all our sunflowers have already been harvested. Right now we are in the middle of the corn harvest. So these rains have halted up our grain harvest for our corn and our Milo that is out there.”
Arnold said producers are about half way finished with the corn harvest, but the rains have halted that operation and are making the ground too soft for equipment to work on. The rain has positive and some adverse consequences for crops that have fully matured.
“Some of that cotton has already opened up the bowl, and the lint is showing. Some of the seeds inside that lint are germinating because of the excessive moisture. When that happens that is going to cause the cottonseed quality (to) go down. It will make it a little bit more difficult for some of the ginners or for the gin to extract the lint from that seed. Thus reducing some of the quality,” Arnold said. “We use cottonseeds for livestock feeds, also for cottonseed oil.
"Some it will go to the crusher. When that seed germinates in there, it reduces its value and reduces its quality. It is not going to be able to be sent to a crusher for oil. If it is not too bad and the percentage is low enough as far as what has been germinated it can and still will be used for livestock feed but the quality goes down. A lot of our cotton producers rely on that seed value to kind of pay for the ginning.”
Arnold said the rain has also had some positive effects.
“As far as our seed crop is concerned it is good to get that moisture especially with us starting to plant winter wheat in about two to three months. That moisture will help from a subsoil moisture standpoint because the rains came slow. Most all of that water leached into the soil profile. So it has helped us from that standpoint,” Arnold said. “For our spring and summer time crops like our corn, milo or soybeans and our cotton to a certain extent, it is not going to do us any good from that standpoint.”
Larry Eubank, County Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency/ USDA, shared some of the same thoughts about how the recent rains have affected producers in the county.
“If you are looking at livestock producers, growing grass and hay is pretty much all good. It is very rare that we get this type of rain. Normal rainfall for the month of August in this area is about one, one and a half inches. So we can see that we exceeded that greatly. So in that aspect from their end, it is pretty good. Unless they had a hay crop that was cut down prior to that rain. It would have caused damage to that hay if it was cut and not baled yet,” Eubank said. "When we move to the row crop situation, we were a little late beginning corn harvest because the moisture content was still too high due to the May and June rain.
"So we were a little bit late starting, and we got to run a week to 10 days and here came the big rain. So my (estimate) is that there is 50 percent of the corn crop. So we are a long way from home.”
Eubank said the saturated ground had prevented producers working in the fields, and it is also affecting the quality of the crops. He has heard reports from some producers that sprouts are forming in some of the milo and grain sorghum crops.
Eubanks said Ellis County typically plants around 43,000 acres of wheat but due to all the rainfall only 13,000 acres was planted. Corn had a total of 57,000 acres planted compared to 40,000 acres last season. Other crops planted in the county for this year included 11,000 acres of sorghum of which 7,000 acres have been harvested, 4,000 acres of sunflowers and 5,000 acres of soybeans. In addition to row crops, a combined amount of 230,000 – 250,000 acres are used for hay production and livestock grazing.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Dennis Cain said that rainfall measured at Mid-Way Regional Airport in Midlothian for the two weeks totaled 4.17 inches. According to the National Weather Service’s website rain is forecasted through Wednesday.
For more information about resources for agricultural producers go to the Farm Services Agency website at www.fsa.usda.gov.
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