With a growing season plagued by high temperatures and a lack of rain, Manchester area farmers are hoping for a successful harvest, despite the less than ideal conditions.
Jamie Weaver of Weaver Farms in southern Coffee County said he plants about 650 of his 1,300 acres with row crops, and he believes his corn and soybeans have been affected by the hot and dry conditions.
“Last year was a great year, but this year we are just hoping it is an average year,” he said.
Weaver said he was more concerned a few weeks ago, before a few days of rain came through Manchester and Coffee County.
“There is always concern, but I am not at the level I was a few weeks ago,” he said.
Weaver said there are some steps he and some other area farmers have taken to help mitigate the effects of a dry summer season.
“Most farmers are no-till, and we have been really heavy on the cover crops, really trying to build our ground up,” Weaver said. “Nothing is 100%, but it gives us some protection, some of the things we have been doing the last 10 years to help situations like this.”
In the event of a worst-case scenario, Weaver said crop insurance helps provide most farmers with a layer of protection if their crop fails.
“My dad farmed through the 1980s and they had some dry years when I was a kid before crop insurance and it was pretty rough,” he said. “Nobody wants to use insurance, and again, if you are using insurance you are not making any money, but at least you can pay your inputs and that is the big concern this year, talking to people.”
Weaver said the cost of fertilizer, diesel and chemicals have at least doubled since last year, and in some cases even tripled in price.
“That has been the big concern this year,” he said.
Despite the strains caused by the weather, Weaver said he is optimistic he can still have a profitable year at this time.
Mark Rose, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville, said that while Middle Tennessee has experienced a drier summer than usual, the area is not about to see drought conditions.
“As far as Manchester, we are not in drought conditions or anything like that,” Rose said. “We have had such a rainfall surplus over the last few years that it would take a prolonged dry spell, I think, to send us into a major drought at this point and we don’t anticipate that.”
Rose said there is no one think meteorologists can point to as the main reason the area has seen hotter temperatures and less rainfall than in years past.
“We have had a summertime pattern that is set up and sometimes it breaks down at various times throughout the summer and this time it hasn’t,” Rose said. “It has just been persistently hot except for brief rainy periods…”
Chris Anderson of Anderson Farm in northern Coffee County said he believes the rain the area has received has been spread out enough that he is not overly concerned with it affecting the corn and soybeans.
“I think the rain has hit in time to make corn and I think soybeans have time to make yet,” he said. “I think if the rain trends like they show it, we will be in pretty good shape on water.”
Anderson said that between farming, owning and leasing, he has about 4,000 acres on his hands.
“My cousin grows corn and soybeans on our farm, he leases from us,” Anderson said. “We mainly raise beef cattle.”
The hot and dry weather this summer has also affected cattle farmers, Anderson said.
“The hot dry weather has been hard on our beef cattle because the pastures have kind of dried up and they have eaten them down and they haven’t really replenished like they should,” he said.
Northeastern Coffee County famer AJ Teal said he believes the weather conditions have affected his summer crops.
Teal said he farms about 1,200 acres, and plants corn and soybeans for his summer crops and also harvests winter wheat.
“The dryness and the heat hit us at the wrong time, when our corn was trying to pollinate and tassel,” he said. “That is one thing you don’t need when your corn is trying to pollinate, is dry and heat.”
Teal said he can handle either dry weather or hot weather, but not both of those conditions at the same time.
The rain that has come to Coffee County in recent weeks has been a blessing, Teal said.
“I have a few friends across the state that didn’t get that rain and they are really in worse shape than we are, so we are blessed for what we did get,” he said.
Teal said the stresses of the possibility of reduced yields because of the weather are an additional worry for farmers on top of a year with historically high input costs.
“It is the wrong time to have any weather stress and of course it has us worried, but we can’t do anything about it,” Teal said. “We are optimistic that we can hope for the best and pay our bills and try again next year.”