Dry, hot conditions continue to keep Pender County farmers on edge
PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A major cash crop is now in the crosshairs of relentless drought like conditions in Pender County.
A year ago many farms sat under water in the area and now they’re dealing with severe drought conditions.
The county office for the state cooperative service believes nearly 15,000 acres of corn is in the ground in Pender County. That crop has on average netted more than $30 million to the local agriculture industry.
“It seems like we just can’t catch a break. It’s just bad,” said county extension director Mark Seitz.
Seitz took WWAY’s Andrew James out to land along Stag Park Road. A majority of corn stalks barely reach two feet in height. It’s one of the areas where farmers do not have access to or at least cannot afford to irrigate according to Seitz.
“If this field behind me potentially did 200 bushel on the acre on a good year, every day we’re in this stress we can lose a bushel a day or two bushels a day or five bushels a day,” said Seitz. “I mean there’s no easy way to measure that, but we are losing crop potential very fast.”
The corn grown in Pender County goes statewide. It supports the pork and poultry industry according to Seitz. Seitz says for at least 10 days now the county has been subjected to drought like conditions.
“The heat caught us 40 days ahead,” said Michael Patram. “The corn at night still looks good.”
Patram works for Southern States and grows an array of crops. On Tuesday, he was happily harvesting a wheat crop that has been unscathed from the dry weather. His corn on the other hand is a different and much more stressful story.
“There’s some places in here some guys around us that it’s firing up pretty bad,” Patram said. “It has tremendously hurt the yield.”
Patram is able to irrigate some of his nearly 500 acre family farm near Willard. That corn reaches well past three to four feet. However, where Patram’s watering methods cannot reach, the corn mirrors that of other plots that have been without rain.
“Nobody can really be ready for this. You’ve just got to have faith,” said Patram. “The next 72 to 96 hours are going to be critical.”
Patram last saw significant rain help is crop 17 days ago. A slight chance of it is forecasted later this week.
“We’ve got to have rain in order to rebound to have any significant impact,” said Seitz.