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Axson Farm Cotton

North farmer Jeffrey Axson says his dryland cotton was being hurt by the drought. Recent rains have helped.

North farmer Jeffrey Axson is thankful for the recent rain, but the blessed moisture is a little too late for early planted dryland corn.

"Some of it we may not harvest," Axson said. "We will know more in a week or two. Most of the dryland in the county and the area was pretty much too far gone. Most of the corn was pollinating and in the middle of the heat. The heat was just as bad as the dry weather."

Dryland corn was the hardest hit by last month’s heat and dry conditions. That weather was followed by a week of rain, which reduced but did not eliminate drought conditions. South Carolina says Bamberg, Calhoun and Orangeburg counties are at the lowest drought stage.

Axson planted about 250 acres of corn. About 50 acres is dryland.

His irrigated corn, however, has reaped the benefits of recent rains.

"It has helped us cut these irrigation systems off for a little while," he said. "The cooler temperatures have helped a lot, too."

Axson also planted about 650 acres of cotton. About 75 percent is irrigated.

"The dryland was starting to suffer from the hot, dry weather," he said. "It was not growing. The rains were very timely to help dryland cotton for sure. There was a lot of cotton in our area planted in dry dirt."

He planted 150 acres of peanuts. They were in a similar situation as cotton, with the recent rains helping the crop to emerge.

Axson said farmers now need a window of warm and dry weather in order to get in the field to place fertilizers and herbicides.

National Weather Service Meteorological Technician Doug Anderson said the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities’ water plant measured 4.08 inches of rain from June 4 through June 12. Rain occurred each day of this period with the most falling on June 7 at 1.4 inches.

Rain totals from June 7-13 provided by Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network weather observers revealed 7.88 inches fell near Springfield; 6.15 inches near Ehrhardt; 4.52 inches near Santee, and 3.4 inches near Elloree.

"I am happy to see the rain," said Orangeburg County farmer Edwin Smoak. Smoak planted about 200 acres of corn -- all dryland - and mostly dryland cotton.

Smoak is keeping his fingers crossed that some of his dryland corn will be salvaged.

"I planted my corn a little bit late," he said. "It was doing better than most of what I had seen. It is hurting, there is no doubt about that."

The recent rains were just what the doctor ordered for his corn.

"I think the rains helped it," he said. "It brought it back out. I think I am going to make a crop, but I really don't know how much of one. I am not sure how bad it is hurt right now."

The rains also helped his cotton crop.

"Cotton looks good right now," he said. "The drought may have held it up a little bit, but it has plenty of time. It looks pretty good right now."

In Calhoun County, Cameron farmer Drake Perrow planted about 1,400 acres of cotton and about 700 acres of corn. About 20 percent of both crops were dryland.

Dry weather really didn’t hurt the cotton, he said. "The heat hurt more than the dry weather because even in that dry time you could dig down an inch or two inches and you could find moisture. It created a good root system for us."

"The heat did more damage than anything because after 95 degrees, the plant just shuts down and starts protecting itself. It did not grow as it should," Perrow said.

The forecast for the area over the next two weeks is calling for average rainfall and above-normal temperatures. These conditions could worsen the drought status once again.

Area river levels have risen during the recent rains. The North Fork of the Edisto River in Orangeburg has seen its level increase from around 3 feet to nearly 7 feet since June 8. All area rivers are currently below flood stage.

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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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