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Farmers need better weather to avoid losing more crops

Screven County farmers who already have lost half to three-quarters of their corn crop are hoping cooler weather and showers will spare beans and cotton.

“It has been getting very crispy for farmers,” said extension agent Ray Hicks. “We went from a surplus to a deficit real quick in Screven County.”

The recent dry, unusually hot spell hit right at the worst time for many corn farmers. “It hit us right at a critical time, when corn was tasseling,” Hicks said. “Dry land corn yield lost probably 50 to 75 percent,” he said.

All of Southeast Georgia has been hit by a string of days with unusually high temperatures – highs in the 90s and heat indexes over 100. But Screven County has fared worse than surrounding areas as far as rainfall, said Jonathan Lamb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Screven County is the one area that’s been really dry,” he said. “It’s the luck of the draw, unfortunately. It’s a pretty localized effect.”

The area covered by the NWS’s Charleston office includes Southern South Carolina and Southeast Georgia. In that area in June, rainfall averaged from 2.5 inches to more than 5 inches. That is, except for Screven County, which had three-quarters of an inch to 1.5 inches.

The good news is that the hot, dry trend broke this week, at least for the short term. Temperatures for the next two weeks should be closer to normal, with highs in the upper 80s and lower 90s. And there should be some showers, Lamb said.

Screven County farmer Stuart Boykin estimated he’s lost 70 percent of the yield on the 550 acres he has planted in corn. The majority of his corn is planted on dry land, meaning without irrigation. Even the acres that have irrigation have been a disappointment because he’s had to irrigate 12 to 18 times, and raising a crop entirely watered by irrigation isn’t cost-effective, he said.

There’s still time for his cotton and peanuts, he said. “They’ll survive if the drought breaks soon,” he said.

Edward Brinson, who records rainfall totals in the Bay Branch area for the Sylvania Telephone, said he counted 8.93 inches of rain in May, bringing the year-to-date total to 22.65 inches. In June, he measured just 1.31 inches, bringing the 2009 total to 23.96 inches.

Brinson said the 14 acres of corn he planted this year isn’t producing. “I won’t make a bit of corn,” he said. His peanuts and soybeans were still doing OK, though.