Bamberg County row crop farmer Richard Rentz has been farming for more than 35 years.

Recent years have tested his nerve and his grit as Mother Nature has been throwing all she can at him since 2015, but she took a break from her fickleness in 2017.

This helped Rentz and other Bamberg County farmers have a more bountiful harvest.

"We will take this year every year, yield wise," said Rentz, who farms corn, cotton and peanuts from his farm in Bamberg.

The sense of normalcy is welcome relief for farmers after two tumultuous growing years.

Last year, a wet spring, than a severe hot, dry period put a dent in the growing season.

A tropical depression and hurricane, which dropped in excess of 18 inches of rain, ended up wiping out any harvest opportunities.

Mother Nature's challenges hurt the county's biggest industry, Bamberg County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Chris Wallace.

Wallace said about 50,000 acres were farmed in the county for 2017, including trees in the Conservation Reserve Program. It is estimated that about 1,400 people are employed on farms in Bamberg County.

Wallace said 2017 was brighter for farmers -- "a very good year for crop yields while prices lagged below what was hoped for by farmers."



According to the latest 2012 Census of Agriculture data, Bamberg County is home to 315 farms with an average farm size of 294 acres.

The number of farms in Bamberg County has decreased from 390 in the 2007 census and the average farm size has decreased from 320 acres in 2007.

The numbers are part of a decade-long trend of smaller farm sizes.

The total land farmed was 92,524 acres, down from 124,935 acres.

Bamberg County ranked 28th in total receipts for crops and livestock in the state.

Crops brought in a total of $26 million (19th in the state) and livestock brought in $11.2 million (30th in the state).



About 5,838 acres of dryland corn were planted while 334 acres of irrigated corn were planted in the county.

"It was the best local corn crop in many years," Wallace said, noting corn averaged between 90 bushels to 120 bushels (or higher) per acre on dryland corn.

Irrigated corn average between 160 bushels to 200 bushels (or higher) per acre.

Rentz said his corn crop was in line with county averages.

He said the crop benefited from timely and adequate rainfall during pollination, helping him make a corn crop that brought in upward of a couple hundred bushels per acre.

"We had the best corn crop I have ever had," Rentz said.

Rentz, who feeds his corn to his hogs, would like higher corn prices because they tend to increase livestock prices.

"Right now livestock prices and corn prices are down," he said.

Corn prices are around $3.60 per bushel.

"Producers would have liked to have received $5 per bushel," Wallace said. "Timely rains and moderate temperatures produced an outstanding corn yield."

Scotty Sandifer of Sandifer and Son's Farm grew about 600 acres of corn. He said yields were up to about 160 bushels per acre on mainly drip-irrigated crops.

"It turned out really well," he said.

Last year, irrigated corn yielded about 185 acres, while the biggest difference from last year to this year is on non-irrigated. Last year, dryland corn yields for Sandifer were about 25 bushels per acre.

Sandifer said there were few problems with disease or insect pressure.



About  5,352 acres of dryland cotton were planted in the county and about 2,203 acres or irrigated  cotton were planted.

"It was the best cotton crop in years as there was a lot of two-bale cotton picked," Wallace said.

For Rentz, his cotton crop also benefited from a more normal year.

"We have had a very good cotton crop," he said. "We will make more per acre in 2017 than we made in 2015 and 2016 combined," Rentz said. "We have a really good cotton crop this year for a change."

Rentz said some of the cotton crop did get tangled up during the mid-September Hurricane Irma, which will make harvesting a little more difficult.

""Some of it is blown out and will keep us from getting the very best yield we could have gotten, but we sill have a good crop," he said.

Rentz says he is hoping to average about 900 pounds per acre.

"Cotton prices are not too good," he said, noting prices are about 68 cents a pound. In order to make a decent profit, farmers would like to see cotton prices consistently up to about 80 cents a pound to make money in both high and low-yield years. "I think we will do a little more than breaking even."


About 3,177 acres of dryland runner peanuts were planted and about 1,039 acres of irrigated runner peanuts were planted.

Of the Virginia type, about 805 acres of dryland were planted along with 219 acres of irrigated.

"Peanuts also had a very good year averaging between 2 and 2.25 tons per acre," Wallace said.

Unlike corn and cotton, Rentz said his peanut crop was not as good as in 2016.

"We had a problem with excess rain," he said. "We got a little excess water at the wrong time and it flooded some places and reduced stands."

"We also had some extra diseases that we don't normally deal with," Rentz said.

Rentz said he believes he will make 4,000 pounds per acre of peanuts, down from 5,000 he made last year. He mostly farms dryland.

The reason for the lower yields? Late leaf spot.

"We have had some yield loss because we had some standing water early and it caused us some problems," Rentz said. "Later in the season, we had some problems with rainfall right ahead of digging. A little bit of rainfall causes leaf spot to explode sometimes."

The disease spoiled what Rentz said "could have been a record-breaking crop."

"Peanut producers received $355 per ton by putting them under loan," Wallace said. "Peanut producers would have liked to have seen prices of about $500 per ton."


Wallace said about 3,484 acres were planted in Bamberg County in 2017.

"Soybeans look promising but have not been harvested yet through Oct. 30.


About 1,082 acres of oats were planted in the county with the average yield around 60 bushels per acre, Wallace said.

"Preferred or good yield would have been around 100 bushels per acre," he said. "Late freeze and cold weather in May hurt the small grain crops."

Oats prices were around $3.50 per bushel while preferred price would have been around $4.25 per bushel.


About 398 acres of wheat were planted while 657 acres were reported as not planted because of wet conditions.

"Wheat averaged 25 bushels to 35 bushels per acre while producers were hoping for a 70-bushel yield," Wallace said. "Wheat prices were around $3.50 per bushel while producers were hoping to receive around $4.25 per bushel.

"Late freeze and cold weather in May really hurt the wheat crop," Wallace said.

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