Dry weather takes toll on county farmers

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Little or no rainfall in Morgan County during the past month is putting a bunch of hurt on everybody who's trying to grow anything outdoors, according to Mike Reeves, a regional extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
"Rainfall has been very light and spotty in the county for several weeks and most plants are beginning to hurt for the lack of moisture," Reeves said. "We badly need a general rain (an inch or more) that will give the soil a good soaking."
Reeves said corn is the farm crop suffering the most.
"It's in the fruiting stage now and needs a lot of water," he said. "For every day it goes without water the smaller the yield will be.
"Pasture and lawn grasses and other plants that have a shallow root system are also under heavy stress. Cattle farmers need rain to produce a second cutting of hay and homeowners' lawns need three-quarters to an inch of water every week at this time of the year for them to do well."
Rainfall measurements are significantly lower than normal.
"Rainfall measured at the Huntsville Jetport so far this year is about 10 inches below normal," said Bill Schaub, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Service in Huntsville.
"The dry and hot weather we're experiencing is a reflection of year-to-year variations in weather patterns.
"It's not uncommon for us to see something like this in warm weather months. Conditions favorable for rain showers in any given area may change from day to day but we don't see a reversal of the weather pattern we're in coming anytime soon."
Hartselle Farmers Market vendor Ray Sanders of Falkville said everything in his garden is burning up and won't last long without a rain.
"Some growers are using tap water as a substitute for rain but that don't make any sense to me. I'd spend more paying for the water I'd use than what I'd get out of the vegetables I'd sell."
Another vendor, who asked not to be identified, said he has been using water from a branch to keep his garden growing. However, he added that the branch is drying up and he hasn't decided what he'll do if rain doesn't come.
Reeves said lawn turf needs three-quarters to an inch of water a week in hot weather to stay healthy and green.
"It's better to apply that amount of water once a week than to water lightly two or three times a week," he said. "You can measure how much water you're using by putting out a rain gauge or an empty tuna can."
"A drip irrigation system is the most cost-effective way to water vegetable plants because it requires less water. The equipment needed to set it up used to be available only at large farm supply stores but I have been told it is now available at Lowe's."

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