Cotton harvest progressing in lower Southeast

A week of dry weather allowed lower Southeast growers to make rapid progress with cotton harvest.

In Alabama reports from the Tennessee Valley showed yields ranging between 600 and 650 pounds per acre, which is a little better than expected. Other areas of the state reported a tremendous problem with re-growth — leading to difficulties with defoliation.

In Florida, cotton harvest was being reported in a few counties with most growers expecting good results.

Georgia observers were reporting extremely dry conditions, with cotton harvest running late.

For a full report on the cotton harvest and other crop developments in the lower Southeast, here are the weekly crop progress reports from the USDA/NASS state field offices for the week ending Oct. 5.


Dry conditions once again covered the state with indications showing no rainfall. Late season crops would benefit if there would be substantial rain toward the end of the growing season.

The US Drought monitor showed 93 percent of Alabama in the abnormally dry conditions. This was an increase of 35 percent from the previous week.

Average temperatures during the past week fluctuated with the majority of the state being above normal by at least 3 degrees. Daytime highs ranged from 84 degrees as reported by three Appalachian Foothills weather stations to 92 degrees in Dothan. Overnight lows varied between a cool 43 degrees in northwest to central Alabama and 54 degrees in Mobile Bates.

Another dry week provided good harvesting weather for cotton, peanuts and soybeans as indicated by Autauga County Regional Extension Agent, Leonard Kuykendall.

Variation in cotton yields were based on scattered rainfall during the growing season. Kuykendall stated cotton defoliation, cotton picking and early soybean harvest progress made the most of the dry conditions.

Auburn Extension Agronomist, William Birdsong, also commented that cotton harvest was well under way. Much of the cotton that suffered through dry conditions in July and early August has been experiencing a tremendous re-growth due to the rains in later August and September. This has presented a challenge with defoliation.

Mobile Regional Extension Agent, Jim Todd, commented that conditions for harvesting both cotton and peanuts were good. Both cotton and peanut yields were above average early in this harvest season. The blown cotton due to Hurricanes Faye and Gustov had straightened up and little cotton was lost during harvesting.

Ronnie Davis, Henry County FSA, stated that peanut harvest was going well, but the soil conditions were not good due to lack of rain.

Madison County FSA Agent, Thomas D. Atkinson, commented late soybeans are still in need of rain. Some average yields for soybeans would be better than others due to the scattered rainfall during the growing season. Another 1 to 2 inches of rain within the next week to 10 days should make the late soybeans.

Dennis Delany, Auburn University Extension, indicated the early beans, generally in north Alabama, were affected by dry weather during May through June.

The late-planted crop mostly looked good. However, these last few weeks of dry weather have hurt them during the seed fill stage. Dennis Delany commented that Asian soybean rust has been present for a while in south Alabama, and recently found in Sand Mountain. Most producers in areas with rust sprayed and prevented damage.

Auburn Extension Agronomist, Charles Burmester, commented that farmers were completing corn harvest in most areas due to the dry weather the last week which helped the progress. Burmester also stated that farmers were harvesting cotton with yields generally a little better than expected. Yields may average between 600-650 pounds across north Alabama.

Jimmy Smitherman of Montgomery County Extension commented that seeding of winter grazing has been delayed due to the lack of rainfall. Auburn University Livestock Extension Specialist, Darrell Rankins, stated beef cattle herds were in pretty good shape across the state. Much needed rains were received, beginning with Tropical Storm Faye and although the last two weeks have been dry, forage in most pastures was adequate.

Many producers have begun planting winter annuals, but fertilizer costs were certainly dictating the extent of acreage being planted.

Darrell Rankins, also commented that hay production was average to above average across the state this year. Feed prices were staying quite high and last week cull cow prices remained very strong.

Last week's market shake-up certainly affected cattle prices as well, yet overall, cattle herds were entering the fall/winter period in good shape.


Last week the southern Peninsula again received the most precipitation. Dade and Broward counties reported over 4 inches each, while most other southern counties received between 1.5 and 2.5 inches. All central and northern areas reported less than 1 inch of rain. High temperatures for the state were mostly in the 80s and low 90s. Nightly lows ranged from the upper 40s to low 70s.

Peanut condition was rated 27 percent fair, 62 percent good, and 11 percent excellent. Peanut digging was 56 percent complete, compared with 36 percent last year, and a five-year average progress of 44 percent. Some peanut fields were too dry to harvest.

Cotton and soybean harvesting began in a few counties, with most growers expecting good crops. A few Jefferson County growers reported early leaf loss due to Asian soybean rust. The harvesting of field corn was finishing. Some east coast counties in the central Peninsula were still recovering from excess moisture.

Hay baling continued.

Jefferson County reported that early pecans were dropping and trees were holding their foliage. Soil moisture was short to adequate in the northern areas and adequate to surplus in most central and southern locations.

Planting of vegetables continued despite earlier delays from surplus moisture. Several counties reported that the crops already in the ground looked good. This past week okra, cucumbers, avocadoes, and tomatoes were marketed.

Forage conditions have decreased due to cooler weather and drought. In the Panhandle and northern areas, pasture condition ranged from poor to good with most in fair condition. Preparation of fields for winter small grain forage was under way, but was generally delayed by dry soil conditions.

Forage growth was hampered by drought, with rainfall in September several inches short of normal. However, some pastures along the St. Johns river remained flooded.

Summer grass growth has slowed due to nightime temperatures below 50 degrees. However, shorter days and cooler temperatures have reduced drought stress.

Cattle were being fed supplemental hay where pastures were poor or very poor. The cattle condition was fair to excellent with most in good condition.

In the central and southwest areas, pasture was very poor to excellent with most fair to good. Some pastures were in very poor condition due to standing water. The condition of the pastures varies in part by how intense the grazing has been, a management issue.

The cattle condition was very poor to excellent with most in good condition. Statewide, cattle condition was very poor to excellent with most in good condition.

Ideal weather for this time of year came to citrus-producing areas across the state. Mild days had lows in the 60s and highs in the upper 80s. Mid-afternoon showers in Immokalee on several days brought nearly two inches of rainfall for the week. Sebring and Ft. Pierce had almost an inch and a half of rainfall. All other monitored areas across the state had one-half inch or less.

Trees were generally in good condition in well-cared-for groves. Fruit sizes on oranges were as large as baseballs. Grapefruit were slightly larger. Maturity levels were being reported as good on all varieties.

Grove owners were busy irrigating, mowing middles, pulling vines, cleaning groves, and getting ready for harvesting. Most owners were having workers scout for greening and spraying affected areas to reduce the psyllid population.

About one-half of the packinghouses have opened and have begun shipping fruit. Only two processing plants have begun running fruit in small quantities. Varieties being packed included early oranges (Navels, Ambersweet, and Hamlins), white and colored grapefruit, and Fallglo tangerines.


Dry weather continued to delay the planting of fall crops, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Daily average high temperatures were in the low 80s. Average lows were in the 50s most of week. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 44 percent very short, 42 percent short, 14 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.

Pasture and hayfields declined due to drought and cool temperatures. Some producers had to irrigate in order to have enough moisture to plant wheat and rye.

Dryland peanuts were dug early due to a lack of soil moisture. Water availability, from spring fed ponds, continued to decline while surface fed ponds were drying up.

Other activities included mowing cotton stalks and baling hay. County Extension Agents reported an average of 6.8 days suitable for fieldwork.


District 1 — Northwest

“It has once again become extremely dry. And there does not look like any rain in the upcoming forecast. Even spring-fed ponds are visibly dropping now, water shed ponds have already dried up. This lack of soil moisture has put a halt to fall planting.”

District 3 — Northeast

“Dry weather prevents fall overseeding at a desperate time for forages. Forages planted are not germinating due to lack of moisture.

District 4 — West Central

“Peanut harvest is under way. It is dry.

Need rain to finish out filling soybean pods, to plant small grains, to grow pasture forages. Too dry to do most anything. Fescue standing still and fading. Warm season grasses playing out.”

District 5 — Central

“Extremely dry! No rain! Pasture and hay field conditions continue to decline rapidly due to drought and cooler night temperatures. Small grain and winter grazing planting slowed due to drought conditions.”

“We have seen our temperatures taper off rather dramatically, yet we are entering one of our driest months.”

“Dry! Dry! Dry! Peanut harvesting continues as fields allow. Soybeans dropping leaves. Dryland soybeans hurting from the lack of rain. Haying continues but is limited. Best cutting of the season. Cotton slow to open. Especially planted behind wheat. Need rain!”

“Fall planting has been stopped for 3 to 4 weeks. Planting will continue when enough moisture is available for germination of seeds.”

District 6 — East Central

“Dry weather is making it hard on dryland peanut harvest. Maturity is happening quickly. Some cotton is being defoliated. Producers are having to irrigate just to have enough moisture to plant wheat, rye, or irrigated ryegrass for grazing.”

“Very, very dry. Not that unusual for this time of year, but September was drier than last year so it seems worse. Dryland peanuts being dug early in many cases due to lack of soil moisture not conducive for maturity. Still watering some soybeans and Ga02-C peanuts. Cotton harvest running late with defoliation being done but little picking. Soybeans really declined in last two weeks of hot, dry weather. Decent late cutting of hay, but cutting hay in mid-late September is attributed to desperation, not good management. This could set many hayfields back this winter. Last cutting was late, but it was probably the second best (out of three) cutting we had all year.”

“It has become extremely dry in the county.”

District 7 — Southwest

“Extremely dry.”

District 8 — South Central

“Extended drought is causing decline in yield and grade of peanuts and forcing us to dig early. Irrigated peanuts still look okay but suffering too.”

“Cotton defoliation is increasing and some yield predictions are below normal. Suspect grades and quality may be off. Irrigation of fall squash, hayfields, and late peanuts if possible. Mowing cotton stalks and baling some peanut hay. With high price of fertilizers more growers are opting to leave peanut residue on soil instead of baling. Those with cattle are baling regardless. Farmer’s attitudes due to economy, prices and drought is at an all time low. No rain in sight. Dry!”

“Dry land winter grazing cannot be planted due to dry soil conditions. Pastures and hay fields are declining due to lack of rain.”

“Dry weather beneficial to harvest. However it has negative impact on some crops and forages.”

District 9 — Southeast

“Need rain. Getting very dry!”

TAGS: Cotton
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