Dry weather hampering Southeast crop development

Spotty showers did boost some Southeast crops during the week ending Aug. 5, but the overall picture was still one of major drought.

Corn and tobacco harvests had gotten under way with mixed results.

Here’s how the various state USDA-NASS field offices painted the picture.


The U.S. Drought Monitor classified 32.5 percent of Alabama land as suffering from exceptional drought conditions this past week, compared to only 17.7 percent a week ago and none at this time last year.

Isolated areas of the state received rainfall during the past week.

Dry conditions coupled with above average temperatures left most spring seeded crops suffering tremendously. Thomas D. Atkinson in the Madison County FSA office indicated that the weather pattern for the county had returned to widely scattered showers and hot temperatures during the past week, and the topsoil moisture levels were near depletion again.

Daytime high temperatures were scorching, and ranged from 93 degrees in Sand Mountain and Mobile to 100 degrees in Belle Mina, Pinson and Tuscaloosa. Bella Mina recorded the coolest overnight low at 64 degrees, while Dothan felt the hottest overnight low and only cooled to 74 degrees.

Rainfall totals were scattered across the state. Many areas did not receive any precipitation, while other regions collected over an inch. Dothan accumulated the most rainfall at 3.11 inches over a 3 day period.

The state’s corn crop remained in mostly very poor or poor condition. Nearly the entire crop reached the dough stage, with 65 percent in the dent stage.

Most of the soybean crop was in very poor or poor condition. Blooming had reached 85 percent, and 45 percent had set pods.

The majority of the state’s cotton crop remained in fair to excellent condition during the past week.

Heath Potter, regional Extension agent for Colbert, Lauderdale and Lawrence Counties, stated that approximately 90 percent of the cotton in these counties had recovered to “normal” conditions as of the end of July.

Fruit set had been good with minimal insect problems. The onset of the hot, dry August weather caused shedding of small bolls.

Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension Agent, noted that wind and hot conditions wilted the cotton in the county, and prospects were for a below average yield.

James D. Jones, Jr., Henry County Extension agent, added that cotton in some fields with good stands was starting to catch up, but that a major percentage of the crop was or will be destroyed due to a poor stand.

Alabama’s peanut crop showed some improvement during the past week, as 44 percent was reported in good or excellent condition. Most fields with good stands in Henry County were already lapping.

Peach orchard producers worried that damage from the Easter weekend freeze not only affected the 2007 crop, but caused expected adverse effects to the 2008 crop as well. The greatest potential damage was expected where low temperatures caused abnormal fruit development, but was not severe enough to cause fruit abortion. Many growers in these areas chose not to pursue any pest management practices, leaving disease pressure from brown rot untreated.

Bobby Boozer, research horticulturist at the Chilton Research and Extension Center, reported that millions of spores were being produced from damaged fruit, killing new shoot growth and mature tree branches. Growers were encouraged to remove old fruit, prune damaged wood and consider utilization of blossom sprays in 2008 for disease control.

Range and pasture conditions remained virtually unchanged this past week, but it was noted that Covington County pastures were drying up again due to a lack of moisture.

Chuck Browne, Lee County Extension agent, noted the some producers in the county were busy cutting and baling hay, but that it was in very short supply.

Jones mentioned that livestock in Henry County were finally receiving some much needed grazing.


Continued scattered rains during the week of July 30-Aug. 5 aided the growth of pasture in most areas. Rainfall ranged from less than an inch in Jefferson County to over four inches in Suwannee and Baker counties.

MacClenny recorded over five inches while Homestead, Ft. Lauderdale, Kenansville, Lake Alfred, and Monticello reported less than one inch for the week. Most other areas received from one to three inches.

Despite scattered showers, southwest Florida remained in a rainfall deficit with totals for the year 30 percent below normal. Temperatures at the major stations averaged nearly normal for the week.

Daytime highs were in the 90s while nighttime lows were in the 70s. Tallahassee reported at least one daytime high at 97.

Peanut condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 49 percent fair, 38 percent good, and 9 percent excellent. In Suwannee County, peanut condition was reported as fair, although weeds are causing problems for some growers.

In Washington County, cotton and peanuts are facing increased weed pressure.

In Jackson County, irrigated peanuts are progressing normally, while dry land peanuts are behind schedule due to drought-induced stress.

In Jefferson County, hay growth is starting to pick up, but afternoon showers were hindering baling.

Soil moisture was rated mostly adequate in most central and southern Peninsula counties but varied from very short to adequate over the Panhandle and northern Peninsula.

Marion and St. Lucie counties reported spots with surplus soil moisture. Jackson, Jefferson, Calhoun, Washington, Gadsden, Hendry, and Dade counties reported some areas with very short soil moisture.

Favorable weather allowed vegetable growers to continue preparation for fall crop planting in some central and southern Peninsula localities. In Washington County, some late melons and collards were being harvested. Okra harvesting remained active in Dade County.


Weather conditions were hot and humid this past week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Average high temperatures were in the 90s most of the week. Low temperatures averaged in the upper 60’s and lower 70s.

Southeast and south central Georgia received significant rainfall this past week. Most of the remaining areas received only light scattered showers.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 11 percent very short, 43 percent short, 44 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.

Afternoon thunderstorms continued to provide some relief to farmers. However, with the increase in temperatures, crops in some areas were already showing signs of stress. Conditions will deteriorate rapidly without consistent rainfall.

Farmers were cutting and baling hay. Although quality and yield were down considerably, early expectations were exceeded.

The corn harvest was under way. Good yields were expected for irrigated corn.

The vegetable harvest continued to go well. Frequent rain showers in July resulted in increased disease pressure in vineyards.

Lesser cornstalk borers were severely damaging late planted sorghum.

Other activities included harvesting tobacco, side-dressing cotton with nitrogen, spraying peanuts with fungicides, irrigating crops, and feeding hay to livestock.

County Extension agents reported an average of 5.9 days suitable for fieldwork.


Tobacco harvest began on a limited basis this past week under extremely hot and dry weather conditions. For those not yet harvesting, the main activities were topping and applying sucker control.

The persistent summertime drought continued last week as temperatures averaged above normal and rainfall averaged below normal in most areas. As a result, condition ratings for all row crops dropped slightly, although most are still in the fair category.

The hot, dry weather has also caused the state's corn to develop and mature more rapidly than usual. Additionally, some farmers used last week's 6 days suitable for fieldwork to harvest corn silage and cut hay.

Soybean development was on a slightly ahead-of-normal pace with almost three-fourths of the acreage setting pods. Pastures were downgraded from a week earlier, while cattle were rated in mostly fair-to-good condition with a few reports of pinkeye and sore-foot.

Livestock producers continued to struggle with hay shortages, as stocks were rated as 41 percent very short, 43 percent short, and 16 percent adequate.

Topsoil moisture levels were rated 36 percent very short, 41 percent short, and 23 percent adequate. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 52 percent very short, 35 percent short, and 13 percent adequate.

County agent comments:

"All crops are at a critical stage that if we do not get any rain this week or next week, we will start seeing extreme drought stress in all crops. Early planted corn that survived the Easter freeze is beginning to dry down rapidly with our hot temperatures and soil moisture deficits. Insect pressures continue to remain relatively light. At the current dry down rate in some corn, would not be surprised if some corn acres will begin to be harvested by the third or fourth week of August. Wheat beans are suffering in a big way. Need rain!" Tim Campbell, Dyer County

"Conditions continue to be extremely dry with recent isolated showers usually less than 0.2". Cotton still has the potential to make a good yield but we need a mud rain soon. Hay is being cut with producers indicating yields of 40-60% of normal." Richard Buntin, Crockett County

"The continued drought has allowed producers to clean out and repair ponds. One producer indicated that a cow got trapped in mud in the pond bottom, when she was trying to find water. For August, cows appear thrifty, and calves appear light. Some farms are receiving showers that enable some grazing. This will save some hay (that is costing three times and more than normal) for later. More trees are beginning to die from freeze damage and/or drought." Ken Burress, Wayne County

"Scattered rains in past 15-20 days has rescued our soybeans and saved our pastures. Some farmer fertilized taking a gamble before expected rain. Those pastures have grown really good since the rains. Other pastures that are not overgrazed are recovering, but will need renovation or over seeding later on. The Coffee County corn crop seems to be fixed with little or no extra yield expected due to rains." Dean Northcutt, Coffee County "Recent rains have improved pastures with the growth of warm season grasses. There is a slight promise of a late season cutting of hay if showers continue. Row crops are now showing stress from lack of moisture in the 90+ degree days." Tom Swanks, Meigs County

South Carolina

Dry conditions predominated across most of South Carolina, causing most of the state’s crop conditions to fluctuate from the preceding week.

Soil moisture ratings across the state were 36 percent very short, 47 percent short, and 17 percent adequate. There was an average of 6.4 days that were suitable for field work. The corn crop has mostly developed and harvesting has begun. The conditions for the week were 3 percent very poor, 20 percent poor, 50 percent fair, 23 percent good, and 4 percent excellent.

Cotton growers continued to apply controls for stinkbugs, and larvae pests. Conditions were 3 percent very poor, 11 percent poor, 49 percent fair, 35 percent good, and 2 percent excellent.

Peanut growers were applying disease controls as required. The crop has pegged 93 percent, and the conditions were mostly fair to good.

Soybeans need rain and are 56 percent bloomed. The crop was rated 5 percent very poor, 14 percent poor, 54 percent fair, 25 percent good and 2 percent excellent.

Tobacco harvesting continues. Conditions were 6 percent poor, 37 percent fair, 41 percent good, and 16 percent excellent.

Pasture and hay conditions continued their steady decline, yet livestock conditions improved slightly despite the hot and dry situation in most areas of the state.

Peach harvesting continues to be less than average for this time of year and conditions are very poor due to the Easter freeze. Apples were still in very poor to fair condition.

North Carolina

Some areas of North Carolina experienced scattered showers this past week, while other areas received little or no precipitation.

There were 6.3 days suitable for field work compared to 5.7 from the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 37 percent very short, 37 percent short, 24 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included harvesting peaches, hay, and flue-cured tobacco, as well as scouting for pest and disease problems.


Spotty storms across the state brought much needed precipitation to some areas. Days suitable for work were 6.3.

Topsoil moisture was generally short.

Pastures and hayfield conditions are starting to improve due to last week’s rain, but soil conditions are beginning to become dry again.

Corn is continuing to twist and show stress. Livestock producers are beginning to market yearling cattle. Early soybeans are continuing to grow despite the dry conditions. Double-cropped soybeans are appearing to have stunted growth due to the extreme heat and lack of moisture.

Tomato harvesting continues while some producers are reporting completion. Potato yields have been reported as good. Vegetable producers are irrigating crops and harvesting musk melons, peppers, squash, and cantaloupes. Other activities this past week included spraying herbicides on soybeans, scouting soybeans for insects and disease, preparing combines for the corn harvest, and planting fall and winter crops.

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