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Excessive rain means obstacles for area farmers


July 12, 2010 at 2:12 a.m.
Updated July 13, 2010 at 2:13 a.m.

Standing water flanks a field of grain sorghum off Port Lavaca Highway. Farmers say recent rains have damaged some crops, especially sorghum. Although harvest would typically already be under way, farmers must now wait for the ground to adequately dry before they begin.

The view of Jimmy Rathkamp's fields isn't exactly what the Refugio County farmer was hoping for.

The corn he planted seems to be holding up well, but recent rains mean some cotton plants lost fruiting positions as did a number on his sorghum crop.

"The milo really suffered," he said, explaining he planted about 1,500 acres of the crop. "But we won't know how bad it is until we get into the field and start harvesting."

Milo is another name for grain sorghum.

With the area experiencing so much rain so close to harvest, many local farmers are evaluating crop damage.

Although a little bit of water would have been fine for this time of year, too much during the daytime can cause sorghum heads to sprout, said Mike Hiller, Jackson County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

The added mold, insect and fungus issues that come with rain also brings an increased risk of diseases in other crops.

"A lot of (rain) is no good," he said. "If we can get some dry weather in here, it'll look better."

On a typical year, Rathkamp said the sorghum harvest would already be under way. But now, producers must wait for the ground to dry out so it can hold the farming equipment.

That takes time, he explained, because the sorghum shades the ground from sun.

"We have to wait a while," he said. "But, as soon as it dries out, we can get to it."

Other side effects that affect the farmer also come into play during rainy weather, however.

Two waves of mosquitoes typically follow flooding events, Mark Johnsen, a medical entomologist, said in an extension service news release.

Salt marsh and pastureland mosquitoes follow five to seven days after flooding, but pose little disease threat.

Standing-water mosquito species follow several weeks later and pose bigger problems, because species such as Southern House Mosquitoes can spread diseases such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis.

"Excessive moisture and flooding help create optimal conditions in which mosquitoes can breed," Johnsen said in the release. "And having good information on mosquito behavior and control can help reduce both their nuisance factor and the threat of disease transmission."

The best way to combat the flying insects is to use mosquito repellents, remain indoors at dawn and dusk, dress in long sleeves and pants and drain standing water, according to the release.

As for Rathkamp, he said he and others are simply waiting for things to dry so the harvest can begin.

In the meantime, he'd like to see some dry weather.

"We needed some rain at the time it was raining, but we didn't need as much as we got as long as we got," he said. "We could go a month with no rain now."



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