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Dry weather get worse for local farmers

By: Deborah Tuff
By: Deborah Tuff

It's been six years since Alabama has experienced a drought, and with the current conditions it looks as if matters will only get worse, especially for local farmers looking to turn a decent crop.

The dry weather has nearly killed the corn crop and in three weeks. Farmers say if something isn't done with their dry crop, it will be a total loss.

Still, they say supplemental irrigating is filling in where the rain won't. But even they don't know how long that will last.

Dying crops looking for a good rain is something farmer Mitch Danford has grown accustomed to. Out of 1850 acres of land he owns, 50 percent of it is irrigated which he says so far has been his saving grace.

“Without irrigation I couldn't make a living,” said Danford.

Pivot can cost up to $60,000 and Mitch has 14 of them. Each pivot irrigates 10 acres, in 9 hours, and up to 1,100 gallons of water a minute. Although Mitch says there's one problem. His irrigated crops aren't staying wet, which means he has to water his crops more often.

Even more of a challenge, pivots uses diesel fuel to operate. Roughly doing the math, he says he has just enough money to pay the bills.

“With the price of fuel it makes it that much worse because already stinking the bottom line profit margin has plummeted to nothing with the high cost of fertilizer, then with the high added cost of diesel fuel,” said Danford.

Agriculture experts say it’s typical to have a dry spell; but not this dry and really, the only crop that is benefiting from irrigation are peanuts

Wiregrass Cooperative Extension Center Kris Balkcom said, “As of right now that seems like the only good crop.”

Still, farmers who irrigate question how long they'll be able to the wells they dip into are low, because of the low river levels. It takes 27,000 gallons of water to put one inch of water on an acre of land.

The last time we've seen a good rain in the Wiregrass was back on April 22 when we received more than 1.7 inches.


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