Allendale farmer says some crops in trouble following drought in South Carolina


ALLENDALE COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Many South Carolina farmers say a growing drought is threatening to devastate their crops right at harvest time.

“My dad, granddad been farming and my dad in his 60 years of farming has never seen it this dry,” Joe Oswald, IV told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk when asked about the drought at his Allendale County farm.

Oswald is a fourth-generation farmer. He said that the lack of rain has affected his dryland crops including soybeans. “This soybean plant right here was one that we were able to irrigate with center pivots and this soybean plant right here was not able to irrigate and the yield difference here you’re talking about 50-60 bushel yield and good beans and here you’re talking about 5-10 bushels,” he said while showing Shawn two plants.

March to August is the growing season for most of the crops and with the most recent rainfall. It could be too little too late.”Right now we’re getting a little bit of rain and that’s been nice. We just didn’t get the right rain at the right time that’s, unfortunately, the biggest issue for everyone,” Clemson University’s Sam Quinney added.

The lack of precipitation is also having an effect on hay. The farm wasn’t even able to put some away in storage. So, Oswald’s farm planted more oats and rye for winter grazing for the 150 head of cattle. “We were just short on hay so we didn’t have enough. We didn’t put up as much as we put up,” Oswald said.

A drought now means a lot fewer crops this winter. “When we harvest and store the grain, throughout the winter months, sell the grain to different distributors who do different things with it and we’ll probably be emptying the bin a lot faster because it didn’t get as full this year,” he said.

We’ve seen two years of detrimental weather such as tropical systems and dry weather, Oswald says that farmers dogged a bullet. “A dry year will hurt you but a wet year will break you and that has been the case with a lot of farmers over the past few years the wet weather has hurt them a lot worse than the dry weather,” he said. The bottom lines of farmers are also being affected in a different way, as well. “We had one year where we had nothing but rain, you couldn’t get in the fields to get anything out so you just had stuff sitting there in flooded fields. Now this year, you’re so dry nothing really produce so you have to look at your equipment cost and figure out if it’s even worth the cost to go into that field to take it out,” Quinney said.

Right now officials are working on a Livestock Forage Program to help farmers recoup any costs from having to purchase more hay or regraze more areas due to this drought. Clemson University also has a Drought Mitigation resource for farmers and the public to help with drought concerns.

Shawn also asked Oswald what would be the perfect weather conditions in the area. “Getting about two inches of rain a week, spread over a little bit at the time each day, no temperatures over 90 — about 88 or 89 and everything will do just perfect here,” he said smiling.

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