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Drought could impact crops in Tennessee Valley

We need good ground moisture by mid-March for good spring crops

Posted: Jan 28, 2018 6:03 PM

Despite this weekend's rain, drought has part of the Tennessee valley too dry. The drought could continue to worsen from Athens to Huntsville through the Sand Mountain. For farmers, future crops could be on the line.

Farmer, Stuart Sanderson of Henderson Farms said the in-season crop for now is wheat. They do fine in the dry weather. Other crops like corm, soy beans and cotton suffer.

"It's just not something I really like to think about. Or else I have to wake up eternally optimistic or I can't do my job," said owner of Henderson Farms Stuart Sanderson.

Stuart Sanderson said below average rainfall from the first of December to January isn't a good thing. The rain we received this weekend isn't much help either.

"A quarter or half inch of rain makes it look wet and muddy. When you start digging deeper and see the sub moisture value has increased, that can cause problems in the spring," Sanderson said.

Sanderson told WAAY 31 if there's not much rain this winter, they run short on irrigation water. That means they have to spend more money on pumping that water in. Farmers were expecting a dry winter, so they prepared for it by leaving residual crops on the fields. That helps hold in the moisture.

"This stalk turns into really good organic matter. We get nitrogen out of that. That feeds this wheat plant. You can see how this is wetter," Sanderson said.

For Spring crops like corn and soybeans, they need good ground moisture by mid-march.

"70 to 80% of all of our production cost comes from when we put seeds in the ground. If we don't have the moisture and if the conditions aren't right, then we can't make that up. It doesn't matter how much it rains or doesn't rain.," Sanderson said.

If the crops don't come in well, people could see higher prices in the grocery stores six months from now. Sanderson said it's too early to determine what might happen since weather isn't over yet.

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