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Crop production challenges in a high rainfall year

How does wet weather impact yields?

Growers often worry about drought, but too much rain can cause problems as well.

Over the past few years, some areas of the Southeast have seen an abundance of rain. With parts of the region seeing rainfall levels up to 20 inches higher than their annual averages, wet weather has caused some major hassles for farmers of all types of crops.

While plants need water, of course, excess amounts of rainfall can have a negative impact on yields. How does too much water impact crop production, and what can growers do to prevent problems?

Rained Out

When too much rain falls, one of the primary threats that growers face is nutrient leaching, says Southern States Agronomist Eddie McGriff. Certain nutrients tend to leach more than others. "Nitrogen, potassium, sulfur and boron have a higher tendency to be leached out of the soil," McGriff says. A lack of any of these nutrients can stunt a plant's growth.

Too much water can also leave the soil waterlogged, which may increase risk of compaction. In addition, oxygen in the soil becomes depleted after a few days under water. "Growers need to watch out for waterlogging and oxygen depletion in the soil in high rainfall years," McGriff advises.

Rain can delay planting, which becomes a problem for crops planted early, like corn. "Because corn needs to be planted early, too much rain in the spring that causes delays can negatively affect the corn crop's yield," McGriff says.

With cotton in particular, rain at the end of the season can have harmful effects. Hardlock and boll rot can become more prevalent with excess rain, as cotton needs sunny weather for the bolls to open up before harvest.

Handling the Rain

While they can't control the weather, growers dealing with an abundance of rain can take steps to increase their chances of success. First of all, growers should frequently monitor crops to determine plant health. When plants are weakened with too much water, disease can creep in, and certain diseases thrive in wet conditions.

Also, growers need to determine if nutrients need to be replenished. One way to do this is with a tissue sample sent to your local lab to determine if any fertilization needs exist.

Fortunately, the negative effects of too much rain do not typically carry over to the next season. Soil samples before planting can tell you if any nutrient amounts have depleted so that you can replenish them with plenty of time before seeds go into the ground.

For more information on how too much water can impact crop production, please consult your local Southern States Agronomy Professional.

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