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Rain causes farming woes

Young pines stand in flood waters during the late February rains in Alcorn County.

Photo compliments of Sandy Mitchell

BY JEBB JOHNSTON

jjohnston@dailycorinthian.com

Area fields are getting a chance to continue drying out this week as planting time nears.

The late February deluge has made it a challenging time for farmers in Alcorn County.

"A lot of the fields did have some significant damage as far as berms that have blown and ended up with a lot of sand in the fields that will have to be mitigated," said Mississippi State University Extension Agent Patrick Poindexter. "It's put a lot of moisture into the ground, and a lot of our early pre-plant activities have been delayed. We just need more dry weather to allow these farmers to get into the fields and start making preparations for planting season."

Apart from a chance of rain tonight, a sunny and mild week is on tap, with rain chances returning on Sunday.

Ten inches or more of rain fell in parts of the county in late February. Poindexter believes rainfall may have topped 13 inches in some areas over the course of that week, and many of the fields that looked like lakes during that week remain very wet.

"I've never seen it rain that hard," he said.

In the bottomland areas, he believes the damage looks comparable to the disastrous flooding of 2010.

With the sand deposits and other damage, "that's going to increase the amount of time they will have to spend in that field getting things ready before they start planting," said Poindexter.

Using heavy equipment too soon after it has flooded can compact soil below the surface, the Extension Service cautions, creating a zone that is resistant to root growth and water infiltration and decreasing the ability of the crop to thrive.

Farmers who would like to get some corn in the ground by the end of March may be challenged to do so, said Poindexter.

Sandy Mitchell, a member of the board of directors of the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, said 21 levee breaks have been identified on the Hatchie River and a few on the Tuscumbia River. Assistance with repairs is being sought from TRVWMD.

Around the home, it's a good time to be thinking about a gardening plan, said Poindexter, but he advises to remember the median frost date of April 15 to 18 for the area.

"I'm telling people to wait a little longer," he said. "But we're getting close. Everybody's starting to get excited, and that's a good thing to see."