When Hurricane Humberto came rumbling through the Delta Thursday, Leflore County farmers getting ready to harvest their 2007 soybeans and cotton crops, knew they were headed for trouble.
“It looks like a big mess. There's very little enthusiasm you can dig up for a rain during harvest season,” said Billy Whittington.
Jerry Singleton, an agent with the Leflore County Extension Service, said soybeans and cotton are the crops most affected by the 3 to 6 inches of rain that came through from Thursday and Friday.
The county's corn harvest is about 90 percent complete. About half of the county's soybean crop has yet to harvested, and cotton harvesting has just started.
Rain doesn't affect corn as much as it does soybeans, Whittington said.
Soybean quality can deteriorate rapidly if left in the field too long. And rain doesn't help matters.
While the rain won't necessarily damage the soybeans, it will slow down their harvest while fields dry enough to handle tractors and combines, Whittington said.
Rain does pose a significant problem for cotton, he said.
Open cotton bolls are subjected to rot by exposure to rain. In addition, rain late in the season promotes “hard-locked” bolls - bolls that won't open, Whittington said.
Singleton said the rain was less damaging to cotton plants that still have a portion of the leaves on the plant.
Those plants that have been completely defoliated are suffering from rot and bolls being knocked to the ground by the force of the rain, Whittington said.
While nightly newscasts repeatedly talked about the rain deficit in much of the South and how much the rain was needed, that's not how farmers see it.
Whittington said there's a difference between suburban homeowners concerned about their lawns and ornamental flowers and farmers who have an entire year wrapped up in their crops.
“If you've got a dry lawn, put a sprinkler on it,” Whittington said.
Singleton said the county needs a few weeks of sunshine to complete the harvest.