Drought Conditions Affecting Farmers

10-20-19 Drought Conditions Affecting Farmers

Last week I saw an article about how the drought conditions are affecting agricultural producers, especially in Southwest Virginia. 

The Roanoke Times reports most of the Roanoke and New River valleys are experiencing moderate drought, with some parts reaching severe levels. While there have been periods of scattered showers and storms that have dumped heavily on isolated areas while missing most locations, the last area-wide general rain fell July 23rd, and was under an inch in most locations which is a stark contrast to last year since it was exceptionally rainy, making it the wettest on record in Roanoke, VA. 

Covington measured less than a quarter-inch of rain last month, the third driest September on record. The U.S. Drought Monitor map released this season shows large paths of southern West Virginia in a severe drought and much of Virginia in a moderate drought. The National Weather Service marked last month as one of warmest and driest Septembers on record in multiple Virginia and West Virginia cities.

The drought also may delay or prevent farmers from planting winter wheat or other cover crops. Unless there’s some moisture in the ground, the seeds won’t germinate, and planting them would be a waste of time and money.

Some farmers are likely to respond to the drought by selling not only calves but also cows, culling the herd. In that event, the market will be flooded and prices are driven down even further.

Apple orchards have also been affected by the drought. The crop is suffering from sunburn and many trees are dropping their fruit, and even though apple and peach picking season is over, farmers are irrigating those trees to keep them alive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported 40% of pasture in Virginia in very poor condition. In addition, 67% of apples have been harvested this year, down from 74% during the same time last year. 

Extra irrigation is a burden, costing farmers time and money, but it could be worse. The dry conditions are taking a toll on soybean and peanut crops to the west of us.

I’d like to thank the Washington Post and AgFax.com for some of the information I used in this story.

For AMR News, I’m Abby Dufour

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Abby Dufour

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