Agricultural Damage From Hurricane Florence in Johnston County

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Bryant Spivey, Johnston County Extension, 9/19/2018

SMITHFIELD, N.C.–Extension Agents with N.C. Cooperative Extension have assessed crop damage in Johnston County. Several crops have sustained significant damage with Flue-Cured Tobacco leading the way at this time. At the time of the storm, tobacco growers in Johnston County had varying amounts of tobacco left in the field. Some growers had as much as 60% of their weight still in the field, while others were nearing completion of harvest. Everyone should keep in mind that the days of finishing tobacco harvest in August are long gone. Tobacco growers utilize their expensive equipment to the maximum capacity to take advantage of the frost-free period in North Carolina that lasts from mid-April until late October.

So, in today’s time, it is completely normal for tobacco to be in the field in October. We are estimating that approximately 40% of the total crop was still in the field at the time of Hurricane Florence. It is pretty clear now that the majority of that tobacco will be lost. The Johnston County crop was 9,353 acres with a potential total value of $45 million dollars. While less than one-half of the weight was in the field, that is still more than one-half of the value because the upper stalk leaves have the highest value.

The cotton crop in Johnston County has also sustained significant damage. While official USDA acreage numbers are not available, Johnston County growers typically plant around 5,000 acres of cotton. Damage to the cotton crop includes lint quality reductions due to wet conditions, lint staining, and seed sprouting in the boll. In addition, a good portion of the lint in open bolls has fallen from the bur onto the ground, and some cracked bolls are experiencing hard lock and boll rot which further reduces yields. In a typical year, the cotton crop in Johnston County would be valued at around $3.4 million. It is quite possible, even likely that one-third of this value will be lost.

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