Dry conditions hamper Southeast crop production

The lower Southeast continued to dry out during the week ending May 6, while some very beneficial rainfall was received in northern areas of the region.

Coupled with above normal temperatures, the droughty conditions slowed — and in some cases halted — row crop planting. Adding to the misery was mounting damage tabulated from the Easter weekend freeze. A detailed look at the agricultural scene around the Southeast for the week just ended:


The southern part of the state, suffering from extreme drought conditions, received very little to no rainfall this week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office.

Average highs this past week were in the upper 70's to upper 80's. Lows averaged from the lower 50's to lower 60's.

There were some scattered showers in the northern part of the state, but southern areas of the state received very little to no rain.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 46 percent very short, 41 percent short, 13 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.

Lingering drought conditions continued to have a negative impact on crops, hay fields, and pastures. Farmers desperately needed rain to help crops recover from dry weather and freeze damage.

Small grains production has been severely affected by the drought.

Pastures and hay fields were not growing. Some cattle producers have been forced to begin reducing their herd. Freeze damaged grass and small grains were being harvested for hay to feed starving livestock.

Planting of dryland crops has come to a standstill due to the lack of soil moisture.

Other activities included pasture weed control and the routine care of poultry and livestock.

County Extension agents reported an average of 6.4 days suitable for fieldwork.


Drought conditions throughout Alabama continue to worsen. There are many locations that have reached precipitation deficits greater than 10 inches since the beginning of the year, with some nearing a 20 inch deficit over the past 14 months.

Extreme drought conditions have enveloped much of the northern part of the state, while severe drought conditions continue to move south.

Temperatures for the past week were as many as 11 degrees above normal. The weather station in Montgomery recorded a high of 94 degrees.

Widely scattered rainfall was recorded across the reporting weather stations. Muscle Shoals received 1.20 inches, while the vast majority of the rest of the state saw no rainfall. Most of Alabama’s wheat crop is reported to be in very poor to fair condition. Dry weather coupled with the freeze over Easter weekend destroyed many producers’ fields. Thomas D. Atkinson in the Madison County FSA office stated that the wheat and corn in the county are expected to be a 95 and 25 percent loss, respectively.

Of the approximate 25,000 acres of corn that were initially planted in the county, 18,750 were replanted.

Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension agent indicated that planting in the county has stopped due to the very dry soil conditions.

William Birdsong, Extension agronomist at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center stated that planting in the southeastern part of the state is in full swing for those producers who have received rainfall during the past few weeks.

Most farmers are planting the DP 555 variety, and some growers are having a difficult time getting a good stand to emerge.

There are no known seed shortages at this time. Pest pressure has been low, but producers have seen numerous grasshoppers around their fields. There has been no reports of any damage as of yet.

Damaged fruit has begun to shed from peach trees. Bobby Boozer, research horticulturist at the Chilton Research and Extension Center reported that severely damaged fruit has already dropped, while lightly damaged fruit still clings to the tree but is not expected to reach normal marketing size. No significant rainfall was received during the past week. Irrigation is needed, and is being supplied where it is available.

Insect pressure remains moderately high, while disease pressure has been low. Producers are making pest management sprays were viable fruit still exists. Daniel Porch, regional Extension agent mentioned that strawberry harvest is still under way, and demand has been very good.

Producers are busy planting summer vegetable crops, with some squash being harvested off of plasticulture beds. The majority of Alabama pastures remain in fair to good condition. Producers are applying some late sprays to their pastures. Atkinson noted that pastures in Madison County have suffered an approximate 50 percent loss, while hay fields are expected to only produce 42 percent of a normal crop.

Porch added that a good bit of hay was cut and rolled in some northeastern areas during the past week. Most of the state’s livestock remain in fair to good condition.


Several stations, including most of the major cities, recorded no measurable rain during the week of April 30 through May 6.

Rainfall was spotty, with Palmdale recording nearly three inches for the week and Alachua, Lake Alfred, and West rain totals ranged from traces to about two thirds of an inch. A cold front crossing the state on Sunday, May 6 brought most of the rain for the week.

Temperatures for the week averaged from one to four degrees above normal. Most daytime highs were in the 80s and 90s while most nighttime lows were in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Temperatures cooled after the cold front passed on Sunday.

Firefighters continued to battle at least two very large wild fires near Ormond Beach and Pine Lakes. Smoke from these fires wafted over many other central and southern Florida communities.

Peanut and cotton producers planted mainly on irrigated acreage and in fields that received recent rains.

Peanut planting progress was 10 percent completed. Last year, peanut planting was 13 percent finished by this date. Hay growth is very limited with supplies very short.

Volusia County feed stores are rationing hay only to existing customers.

Soil moisture supplies were rated very short to mostly short in the Panhandle, Big Bend, and southern Peninsula areas. Soil moisture remained very short over the central Peninsula.

Organic vegetable harvesting is expected to begin this week in the Suwannee Valley State Farmer’s Market area. Palmetto-Ruskin tomato picking is getting under way as harvesting ends around Homestead and Ft. Pierce. Squash harvest started in the Quincy area as the season nears the end in the southern Peninsula.

The digging of table-type potatoes started around Palatka as the harvest of processing types increased.

Birds continue to plague blueberry growers with a few producers abandoning acreage.

Other vegetable and non-citrus fruit marketed during the week included snap beans, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupes, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, lettuce, okra, parsley, peppers, radishes, strawberries and watermelons.

North Carolina

Another week of above normal temperatures dominated the state. Highs ranged from 84 to 94 degrees. The warmer weather aided in the progress of spring plantings. There were 5.9 days suitable for field work last week compared to the 6.2 days from the previous week.

Statewide, soil moisture levels are rated at 5 percent very short, 53 percent short, 39 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included the planting of corn, cotton, sorghum, tobacco and the preparation for other spring crop plantings.

South Carolina

Despite the rains this past weekend, overall state soil moisture levels have continued to dry out, and are now at 16 percent very short, 30 percent short, 52 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.

The weather during the week days were mostly favorable for outdoor work. For the entire week, there was an average of 5.8 days suitable for field work.

Corn planting is all but finished with 99 percent planted. Most of the replanted corn is up and 90 percent is emerged across the state. Corn conditions have improved slightly over the previous week, but are still poor to mostly fair. Cotton and peanut planting is now under way, but well behind last year. Tobacco transplanting, which is lagging behind last year’s finish, is winding down with 91 percent of the crop set.

Oats were nearly all headed at 97 percent with 28 percent turning color. Winter wheat heading is also nearly complete with 96 percent headed, and 12 percent turning color. Many small grain fields are not in good condition and are not expected to improve significantly at this point.

Soybean planting has begun and 8 percent is complete. Some growers were waiting for rain this past weekend, before seeding their fields.

Livestock conditions were mostly fair to good this past week. Pasture conditions have declined in spite of the weekend moisture, but are still fair to good.

Vegetable planting is ongoing. Most vegetable crops could use additional rain. Peaches remain in mostly very poor condition at 87 percent very poor, 6 percent poor, and 7 percent fair. Apple conditions are unchanged at 50 percent very poor, 25 percent poor, and 25 percent fair.


Farmers across the Volunteer State took advantage of the 6 days suitable for fieldwork last week to make excellent progress on a variety of field activities.

Planting progress for all major field crops surged ahead, as corn led the way with over 90 percent of the acreage now in the ground.

Only about a tenth of the winter wheat crop has yet to reach the heading stage of development with the condition of the crop improving from a week earlier.

Tobacco growers began transplanting last week, while hay producers also made good progress with their first cutting. The state's fruit trees continued to digress as virtually the entire peach crop was rated in very poor condition, while three-fourths of apples were rated in this worst category. Cattle were rated in mostly good-to-fair condition with some cattlemen concerned about declining herd conditions due to poor pastures and hay shortages.

Other field activities last week included applying herbicides and side-dressing corn, making 'burndown' applications for no-till soybeans, and working cattle.

As of Friday, topsoil moisture levels were rated 4 percent very short, 36 percent short, 57 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 9 percent very short, 42 percent short, 48 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

Temperatures last week averaged 5 to 10 degrees above normal across the state.

Rainfall was below normal in the west, near normal in the east, and above normal for the Plateau and Middle Tennessee regions.


Recent showers were welcomed in the Commonwealth this past week. Temperatures were above normal with highs around 88 degrees with an average of 0.84 inches of rainfall.

Days suitable for field work were 4.8. Topsoil moisture was adequate.

Grain producers continued scouting for cereal leaf beetles, aphids and diseases. Insecticides and fungicides were being applied to wheat fields; some areas showed signs of powdery mildew and cereal leaf beetle infestations. Corn growth was slow due to the cool temperatures. Strawberry and asparagus harvests continued.

Other farm activities included: seeding and fertilizing pastures, shearing sheep, fence mending and making hay.

West Virginia

Aside from cooler overnight lows this week, there was little change in West Virginia weather during the past couple of weeks.

Temperatures remained slightly above normal for the period. Some communities in the southwestern sections of the state hit 90 degrees for at least one afternoon but overnight lows in the 30s and lower 40s kept the state average temperature in the low 60s.

Rainfall was generally below normal for all but the southern counties of the state.

A frontal boundary stalled over that section for a couple of days and delivered over an inch of rain for most locations. The northern two-thirds of the state had much less precipitation for the week.

Temperatures: Williamson had the highest recorded temperature of 91 degrees.

Marlinton had the lowest recorded temperature of 26 degrees. The state average temperature was 61 degrees. Precipitation: Bluefield had the highest recorded amount of precipitation with 1.66 inches. Huntington and Martinsburg both had the lowest recorded amount of precipitation with 0.08 of an inch. The state average precipitation was 0.57 of an inch.

Number of days suitable for fieldwork averaged 5 days last week.

Total acres plowed that are intended for spring planted crops were 74 percent complete, compared with 82 percent in 2006 and 75 percent for the 5-yr average.

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