Mother Nature's Summer Fury Hits Hard on Valley Farms
Fierce heat, lack of rainfall coupled with the destructive derecho, have taken their toll on Shenandoah Valley farms.
The combination has proven deadly for some crops, and even livestock. The Virginia Cooperative Extension Service says dry soils and extreme heat have already forced some farmers to mow down their feed corn, and start over.
That means they must buy feed for livestock, driving up their prices, and yours. But that's just one way poor summer weather hurts their bottom line. It's nearly harvest time for countless acres of Virginia corn, but four to six weeks of dry heat came at just the wrong time.
Virginia extension agent Timothy Yancey said, "This field here is tasseled, has produced pollen and pollinated the seed kernels. That's when you really need good moisture and good growing conditions. To carry that crop on through the rest of the year, we're going to need some rain and we're going to need it pretty quick."
Extension agents say the derecho two weeks ago caused minor damage on most farms, but on a handful of them, wiped out 10 to 50 percent of crops. The same storm, followed by dangerous heat, was fatal to 200,000 chickens and turkeys in Rockingham County alone.
Virginia extension agent John Welsh said, "It's the power outage really that affected the poultry industry, more so. And the reason being, when you've got animals in confinement and close proximity, ventilation is pretty key."
The hot, dry conditions also impact dairy farms. Heat stress on cattle can lower their yields by up to 10 percent.
Welsh said, "There will be a lot of untold dollars worth of loss that we can't put a finger on today."
An inch of rain in the next week or so would go a long way toward helping farmers cut their losses. The extension service says heat-related poultry losses in Augusta and Rockingham counties added up to roughly half a million dollars. The hardest hit may be Shenandoah County, at a loss of $900,000.
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