With temperatures in the high 90s, local farmers are keeping an eye on their bread and butter.
Allan Thornton, an associate for Sampson County Cooperative Extension, recently reported that earlier hot days resulted in issues with peppers and tomatoes, such as blossom-end rot, a disease caused by lack of calcium and shown though a dark mark at the distal end of the fruit.
“It will begin to decay and rot,” Thornton said while describing the problem. “I think some of that came about from that real early heat that we had when the peppers were maybe a golf ball size or so.”
Now, Thornton said there’s enough heat where fruits such as peppers, watermelons and cantaloupes that are exposed closed to maturity can be sunburned.
“We had a little of that, but it hasn’t been too bad,” Thornton said. “We had a little foliage to keep that fruit covered pretty well. But where we really get into problems is when we don’t have rainfall, good growing conditions and plant canopy.
“But as long as we got a good plant canopy and shade, we’re usually in pretty good shape,” he continued. “Although a lot of growers are not doing some extra things to protect themselves, there are some shade products that can be applied.”
A chalky type of solution can be applied to help reflect the sunlight.
“There are a few growers that are doing that,” he said.
In addition to the high temperatures, an abundance of rain has been an issue in sweet potato fields that hold water longer than others. A problem is soil that may become over-saturated.
“The same is true with the other crops as well, but sweet potatoes is the biggest acreage crop by far,” he said. “It’s going to have more of those type of situations.”
Visually, Thornton said the saturation issue is shown through tobacco production.
“Tobacco is a little more noticeable because it’s standing up and those patches yellow out really quickly,” Thornton said about standing water. “The same thing happens to vegetable crops and other field crops. It can’t take water standing for a long length of time.”
The total rainfall has been sporadic throughout Sampson County, with heavy amounts ranging from 10 inches to 14 inches this summer.
“That’s great amounts of water if we can ever figure out how to spread it around a little bit,” Thornton said. “We would love to be able to spread that out around the summer.”
Rodney Mozingo, superintendent of the Horticulture Research Station in Sampson County, believes that the heat is not bad as it could have been because of the moisture from the rain.
“If we had that combination of high heat and dryness, it would have been disastrous for everybody,” Mozingo said.
Mozingo added that the research center has the ability to irrigation system, so it’s not as bad as a farmer who may be dealing with high temperatures.
“If you get blisters on the peppers and cucumbers, it’s not going to last very long,” he said.
The amount of damage is unknown, but Thornton believes there may be some losses, especially with some pepper farmers.
“I expect we’ll have some losses because of the heat and some on the excess water that we’ve had,” Thornton said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.