Drought, now rain is hurting hay crop

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By KATE SHERIDAN, Citizen Correspondent

Area farmers have experienced difficult times fighting the elements this year and chances are that finding hay has been difficult.

When it comes to farming, rain is king. Rain is what farmers want, rain is what farmers need and when it finally came, it came — and then some.

April showers did not disappoint; however, someone did not hear the plea, “enough is enough” and in just one day nearly 10 inches fell in some areas. The rain was very welcome and farmers were grateful for it, not knowing it would be at least another 45 days before it came again.

Farmers and residents alike all felt the pain as they tried desperately to save watermelons and other crops. Success was had as local growers applied proven techniques and used a bit of past-experience, such as using pivot irrigation rather than relying on drip irrigation systems that were struggling to support young plants. The drought was documented as one of the worst in the region in more than 10 years.

The next crop to fall to its knees before Mother Nature was hay.

Local farmer Galen Watson tends to his peanut crops as he keeps an eye on the sky with hay harvesting in mind.

Watson has nearly 100 acres where he grows hay that he calls, “old style hay,” which is a coastal Bermuda mix. He grows and sells 900-pound round bales locally

Since rain occurs as typical North Florida summer rains do nearly every afternoon it’s now put a halt on hay production. It has been too wet for the hay life-cycle, which can be tricky. It needs water, and plenty of it in the beginning, but to harvest it there needs to be a nice dry spell so the hay is not damp at harvest or the bales of hay will mold.

Farmers are keeping their fingers crossed that local growers will be able to tend their hay fields before moving on to the next big crop for the area, which is peanuts.