ENC agriculture experts discuss future of crop health following warm January weather

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -70-degree weather and moist field conditions are what many crop farmers in Eastern Carolina have dealt with during the month of January.

“This is how the farming game is played, adjusting throughout the year to weather,” said Mitch Smith, Pitt County Agricultural Extension Agent.

The abnormal weather has been a topic of discussion due to the fact that it’s projected to be one of the top 10 warmest January’s in ENC history.

However, those conditions haven’t been in favor of some crops, especially wheat. According to Smith, warm winter temperatures can affect the harvest in a negative way.

“It increases the risk of some of the early planted wheat, being affected by late spring freezes,” Smith said. “When that happens you can have damage to the heads of the wheat that can reduce yield itself.”

The fear of a possible freeze is something that farmers are crossing their fingers about, hoping that it doesn’t happen. If it does, WITN Chief Meteorologist Zach Holder says all crops could be in trouble.

“If we get a freeze in a couple of weeks before it’s able to be harvested that can damage the crops,” Holder said. “You kind of want things to be normal but anytime you go either too cold or warm, your plants are going to be impacted.”

Along with the spring-like weather in January, conditions have also gotten moist as the month has progressed due to increased rain.

Smith believes it’s a good thing because ENC has been in a dry spell for a while.

“We have been concerned about dry conditions,” Smith said. “Particularly as we approach late March and April; how will we plant this crop. That (the rain) has certainly been a plus.”

The untypical January weather has surely had an impact on crops in one way or another, and Smith feels things need to get better because agriculture is essential.

“We need agriculture to be successful because it impacts all of the businesses we have here in the east,” Smith said. “Hopefully as time goes on, we’ll be able to have some normal conditions.”

Farming is the leading industry in our state, contributing more than 90 billion dollars annually to the North Carolina economy.