Rotting tobacco crops are cutting into area farmers' profits
MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - Many regional tobacco farmers took a devastating hit over the past two weeks. The constant rain left some farms underwater right in the middle of harvest season. Leaves are rotting and farmers say its cutting into profits.
Heavy rains and soggy fields have caused many Franklin and Henry County tobacco farmers to put harvest on hold as tractors and equipment would literally sink into the ground.
After a two week hiatus, farmers are hauling in the tobacco leaves -- working to make up for lost time.
"It was so wet you can start in with the tractor and it would just go 'blump' and it would just sink," said local farmer Dean Cooper.
Cooper said his land received 12 inches of water -- over saturating crops.
"If it gets dry, we can irrigate and make it," Cooper commented. "But, when it gets too much water there's nothing you can do, but take whatever's left."
Leaves browning at the edge and black shank disease are results from the rain causing stress on the plant. In turn cooper said he can't sell the tobacco in this condition. It's a loss he's forced to bare and it's why he's called in an insurance expert.
"We averaged out about five leaves lost per plant which equals to about a 30 to 35 percent loss on the whole crop," said Gy Bowers, an insurance adjuster with ProAg crop insurance.
Bowers said the leaves are more susceptible to wind damage too.
"They're full of water and it causes the leaves to be kind of brittle where if it was dry there would be more give...and more forgiving," said Bowers.
Cooper's goal is to cure 180,000 pounds of tobacco this season. Now, he's required to put in more effort to make ends meet.
"It's just a whole lot of work you have to go through to get it done," said Cooper.
Like other farmers cooper just started harvesting this week and will continue to harvest moving into November.
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