Hurricane Florence Floods North Carolina Crops

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North Carolina’s agricultural sector is facing a dismal end to 2018, as estimates for crop and livestock losses continue to increase in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. The deluge left large expanses of farmland heavily waterlogged and has impeded harvest of some of the state’s key crops.

North Carolina accounts for over half of the United States’ total tobacco and sweet potato production. The 2018 tobacco crop had mostly been harvested by the time the storm hit, but early reports indicate that nearly 20 percent may have been lost. Sweet potato and cotton harvest began in the days leading up to the hurricane, but now many fields are under water. This is likely to impact both harvest and storage costs as waterlogged crops are typically lower-quality and susceptible to rot diseases. However, much of the sweet potato crop may be saved if the flooding recedes soon and the soil drains. On the other hand, cotton is likely to suffer a reduction in yield and quality as heavy precipitation on opened cotton bolls damages plant fibers and contributes to lint loss.

Over the past week, the total acreage of North Carolina cotton and sweet potato crops rated in good to excellent condition by the USDA fell 14 and 10 percent, respectively. But as flooding continues to provide logistical challenges to crop management, conditions are likely to decline further. In the coming weeks, Gro Intelligence subscribers can easily monitor changes to crop condition reports and stay current on the agricultural fallout of Hurricane Florence.

The chart on the left illustrates a drop in sweet potato crop condition in the week immediately following Hurricane Florence whereas the chart on the right highlights a similar decline in crop condition for cotton. The purple lines in each chart illustrate the total percentage of each crop harvested at the start of each week.

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