RICHMOND, Va. — Many farmers will tell you they prefer drought to excessive rain. With parts of Virginia receiving two months’ worth of rain in two weeks, this spring’s rainfall definitely counts as extensive.
Too much rain for too long a time can be devastating to an agricultural operation. It affects different farms differently, depending on location (top of a hill vs. the bottom), soil type, crops produced or animals raised, the time of year, and where a farm is in the planting, growing or harvesting schedule.
Too much rain, especially if it stays around, can rot berries or vegetables on the vine. This is critical in the spring for produce and in the fall for pumpkins. Too much rain at planting or harvest time can saturate the ground, making it too wet to get into the fields. Farm equipment is heavy, often with big tires, and it can tear up wet fields. It can take days for field to dry out enough to support the equipment.
Wine grapes and other plants are very susceptible to fungi, which like wet weather.
Plant roots need water and food, but they also need air. Standing water can drown plants, especially young ones. Roots of new plants don’t have to search for water so roots might be shallow in the soil, making them more susceptible to later drought. When farmers have to replant, the growing season is shorter, which reduces yields — the amount grown per plant. Rain on cotton can destroy its quality, reducing its value as a crop.
Even animal agriculture feels the effects of excessive rain. It can destroy hay or greatly reduce its yield, or extremely wet fields can keep animals from grazing efficiently. Parasites thrive in the wet weather, causing problems from disease to loss of quality of wool. In horses and cattle, excessively wet conditions and flooding can cause foot rot.
Farmers are more dependent on weather than almost any other occupation, and for them, it is not just an inconvenience. Weather, including too much rain, can make the difference between a good year and a disastrous one.
— Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services