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Storm Ag

Farmers worry that heavy rains and high winds will have a significant impact on this season's cotton yield.

Farmers are worried that Hurricane Michael will bring tropical storm-force wind gusts and heavy rains to The T&D Region at a critical time.

"We are not happy about having to deal with this one," Clemson Extension Agent Charles Davis said. "We are in the midst of cotton and peanut harvest and would have loved to have had a pass."

While the region was largely spared damage from Florence, Michael could be another issue altogether.

He said, "50 mile-an-hour wind gusts is not what we need right now.”

The T&D Region is under both a flash flood watch and a tropical storm warning until 11 p.m. Thursday.

The National Weather Service is forecasting sustained winds of between 20 miles per hour to 30 mph with possible wind gusts of 50 mph. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting 2 to 6 inches of rain.

North cotton and peanut farmer Jeffrey Axson says the cotton crop is his main concern as Michael rolls through.

"A lot of the cotton is ready to be harvested," he said. "The bolls are opened up. Cotton is ready to be picked."

Axson said most farmers began picking cotton about a week to ten days ago.

"The potential of 4 inches of rain and tropical storm-force winds would have a pretty significant impact on cotton," he said. "We got lucky with Florence. I don't know if we will get as lucky on this one."

"I don't think it will be a 100 percent disaster ... but I do believe it could reduce our yields," Axson said.

Axson said he has made a lot of progress getting peanuts out of the field, although there are still some out there waiting to be picked.

"Four inches of rain could get the field boggy where you can't get in for a while," he said.

As Michael churned its way closer, Axson was hoping to be able to get in the field to pick peanuts Wednesday.

There was only one problem: almost an inch of rain fell on the fields before the storm arrived, making it too wet to pick peanuts or cotton.

Clemson University Extension Peanut Specialist Dan Anco said a saving grace for the peanut crop might be the fast-moving nature of Michael.

"If this ends up being the case with a quick pass through, it would be more forgiving for peanuts that are still on top of the ground than if we were to get several days of cloudy, misty rain," Anco said. "If the vines are healthy and the pods are not over mature, they would overall be safer left in the ground and dug once the storm passes and the field is accessible."

S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said, "Here we go again. Another nightmare.” The storm comes just weeks following his tour of the damaged regions following Hurricane Florence.

Weathers said the biggest impact from Hurricane Florence came from the heavy winds lashing crops for 18 hours.

As for the rainfall, Weathers said 5 inches to 8 inches should not be a significant issue.

"We have been really dry," he said. "Most of the soil can take it."

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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