ENC farmers race to harvest before heavy rainfall

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – It’s a busy time of year for Eastern Carolina farmers, and heavy rain predictions over the next few days are forcing them to work even faster.

WITN talked to agriculture experts Thursday about the impacts Ian is expected to have on Eastern Carolina crops.

“You will see a little bit more urgency in place, guys going a little bit faster,” Beaufort County Extension Director Rod Gurganus said.

It’s a race against time for some farmers, as they work to beat the five to eight inches of rain expected to hit Eastern Carolina from Hurricane Ian.

“The pending hurricane offers a great threat to our producers right now because we’re at a very important stage of harvesting peanuts, finishing tobacco and cotton,” Pitt County Agricultural Extension Agent Mitch Smith said. He added that harvest for crops like peanuts and cotton takes about two weeks.

“[Farmers are] trying to finish their peanuts and get those to drying stations and then delivered to buying stations, so that will be done right up until the moment the rain begins,” Smith said.

Gurganus said heavy rain poses a bigger threat when combined with cloudy skies and heat for days at a time.

“It will cause the cotton and soybean seed to deteriorate,” Gurganus said, adding that flooding would be even worse. “If it’s flooded and the water’s there, and it stays long, it’s not good.”

All of those threats would hit at a time when crops are especially vulnerable.

“These crops are… they’re normally harvested this time of year and so when it’s physiologically mature, and it’s dried down to the moisture level that we typically harvest, if it gets wet again, that’s not good. That’s why timing on this is so important,” Gurganus explained.

Though the next few days will bring challenges, they’re staying optimistic.

“We hope that rainfall estimates will be far reduced from what’s been predicted up until this point,” Smith said.

When Gov. Cooper issued a State of Emergency, he included that it was to help farmers get ready for heavy rain.

“A State of Emergency is needed now so that farmers and those preparing for the storm can more quickly get ready for the heavy rain that is likely to fall in much of our state,” he said.

Drivers are urged to keep an eye out for farmers along the roadways as they work fast to finish up before the rain.

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