Rain, rain, stay away at least for now, farmers say

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 12, 2000

A cotton boll is in full bloom in a field being picked by father Larry and son Daniel Branch in Warren County Monday afternoon. Larry Branch said he hopes predicted rain will hold off until the harvest is completed. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Farmers in and around Warren County are likely to remember the year 2000 as a roller coaster ride of poor weather conditions throughout the spring and summer.

And, yet, despite record-high temperatures and lower-than-normal rainfall for nearly two years, they don’t want the rain to come now either.

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“I hope the rain will hold off,” said Daniel Branch who farms with his father, Larry Branch, on land just south of Eagle Lake.

The Branches are just more than a week into the five- or six-week harvesting time that will determine their yields on the cotton crops planted in late winter and early spring.

On Monday, they were in the field, but they kept an eye on the sky.

The little bit of rain Warren County received in the early spring was just enough to get crops off to a pretty good start, Warren County Agricultural Extension Agent Terry Rector said.

But, since then, the rainfall has been spotty to nonexistent.

“It all depends on who got rain when,” Rector said, pointing to a soybean crop of some 20,000 acres in Warren County that he said will range from horrible to very good. The per-acre yield will range from a high of 50 to 60 bushels fewer than 10.

But, Rector said, the weather has not been the only problem for bean farmers. Stink bugs also have taken their toll on the yield potentials.

He said the corn farmers were in the best position of all, having gotten their crops mostly all harvested by the end of August. And, he said, the yield was good.

The Branches were among those who had some corn on some of the acreage they farm in Warren County, near Delta and near Rayville, both in Louisiana.

Larry Branch said they had some yields on their corn as high as 150 bushels per acre.

Cotton farmers like the Branches are the ones who are really still wondering.

Like many of their colleagues, the Branches started picking about a week ago and still have four to five weeks of work to go. As a result, they really don’t know just how much their production will be affected.

“The high heat and the dry weather have affected the yield potentials,” Daniel Branch said.

This summer has seen some of the hottest days on record with the mercury topping the 100-degree mark more than nine days in July and August. An all-time record of 106 came early this month.

But it has really been sort of a tie race as to which weather problem has caused the most trouble.

The area started 2000 with nearly nine inches less rainfall in 1999 than normal. Since then, the rainfall has amounted to 25.46 inches, 12.12 inches less than normal.

But, that was then. Right now, the farmers just hope the rain will hold off for a few more weeks.

Daniel Branch said their harvesting work had to stop for about three hours Sunday because of rain. Their neighbor across Mississippi 465, Crosby Simmons, was chased out of the fields by rain and did not get back to business Monday, either.

“We don’t need the rain right now,” Larry Branch said, echoing his son’s sentiments.

While the farmers have been watching the weather, so have the people who operate towboats on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. They began the year with low water levels that hampered some operations. Later on, rainfall in the Upper Mississippi region and along the Ohio River and its tributaries brought the Mississippi up some, but never near the normal stages.

The Mississippi River at Vicksburg was at 3.9 with forecasts that the stages should be less than three feet later this week.