Harvest surges ahead in lower Southeast

Cool, dry weather has helped Alabama growers surge ahead with harvest activities although wet fields from previous rainfall kept producers in some central areas out of their fields until mid-week.

In Florida, clear skies aided field work for most regions, with peanut digging now 90 percent complete.

Frosty conditions slowed peanut digging in Georgia and some damage to soybean leaves was reported due to early morning frost.

For an overall look at the crop situation in the lower Southeast, here are the reports from the state USDA/NASS field offices for the week ending Nov. 2.


Cool, dry weather moved into Alabama during the past week, with freezing temperatures felt in several locations. Wet fields stemming from the significant rainfall toward the end of the previous week kept producers in some central areas out of their fields until mid-week.

Drought free conditions existed in just over 27 percent of the state, and improvements that reflected the previous two weeks of statewide rainfall were seen across all drought categories, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released for Oct. 28, 2008.

Temperatures fell to well below normal during the past week. Daytime highs ranged from 67 degrees in Bridgeport to 79 degrees in Livingston and Mobile. Overnight lows varied between a freezing 23 degrees in Hamilton and 34 degrees in Bay Minette.

There was no rainfall recorded at any official weather station.

More small grain acreage was seeded across the state during the past week, with large increases to come following the harvest of the remaining row crop acreages. Small grain crops that had already emerged were in good condition as a result of the timely rainfall of the previous two weeks.

Crop harvest progressed well. Donald E. Mann, county executive director in the Jackson County FSA office, noted that overall, crop yields were varied but better than expected. Optimal weather conditions in the major cotton-producing areas of the state allowed a significant portion of the crop to be harvested during the past week.

Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent located in Autauga County, stated that his locality received light frosts on Tuesday and Thursday, with a hard, killing frost on Wednesday that was expected to damage any cotton that had not been defoliated.

Alabama’s peanut harvest neared completion considerably ahead of last year and the five-year average due in part to favorable soil conditions that allowed for rapid digging.

Seven percent of the soybean crop was harvested during the past week, leaving progress five percentage points behind last year but on par with the five-year average.

Summer perennial pastures showed a decline in condition during the past week, leaving the majority in very poor to fair condition. Henry Dorough, regional Extension agent located in Talladega County, mentioned that the area experienced a killing frost on four mornings during the past week. Hay supplies were reported as adequate to surplus. Livestock have remained unaffected by the decline in the pasture grass availability, and remained in mostly fair to excellent condition.


Last week’s temperatures were unusually cold. In major cities, daytime highs averaged in the 60s and 70s, while lows were in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. A few locations got below 30 degrees at night. Season’s first frost and freezes were reported in the northern third of the state. Overall, major cities ranged from 5 to 10 degrees below normal.

Light, scattered rainfall accumulated over the state with most areas receiving less than a tenth of an inch. The most rain received last week fell in Ft. Pierce and Hastings, reporting 0.82 and 0.43 inches, respectively.

Peanut digging was 90 percent complete, compared with 87 percent last year, and a five year average progress of 92 percent. Clear skies aided field work for most regions.

Sugarcane harvest began in some areas of Glades County.

Cotton growers continue to harvest, less than half of the cotton remained in the fields.

Okaloosa County growers reported that they were cutting soybeans.

Last cuttings of hay were made in an effort to save what wasn’t damaged by frost. Rye came up in Dixie County fields.

Soil moisture levels were mostly adequate in the southern Peninsula and Panhandle, while the Big Bend and central areas were mostly short.

Cabbage planting slowed in St. Johns County. Land preparations were under way for potatoes in St. Johns County as well. Drier soils in southern fields helped keep disease down.

Bradford County planted strawberries and onions. Producers in Union County lost a significant amount of their eggplant and snap beans due to a heavy freeze. Seminole County producers reported little damage from frost.

Cucumbers, okra, squash, and avocados moved through the market last week. Light volumes of snap beans, tomatoes, and eggplant were also marketed.

Early frost in the Panhandle, Big Bend, and central Peninsula caused browning in some pastures.

Union County lost 20 percent of their pasture due to heavy frost and dry temperatures. Winter forage was planted in Baker County, but the cold front slowed forage growth in Osceola County.

Wet soils were seen in the east-central part of the state preventing cattle from returning to the fields. Low protein levels were reported in areas of Orange and Seminole counties. Overall, cattle were mostly fair to good condition.

Cool weather early in the week was welcomed, but had little to no impact on Florida citrus. On Wednesday, several areas dropped to the upper 30s at night, warming only to the mid-60s during the afternoon. Rainfall was very light for the week across the citrus belt. Only Ft. Pierce had significant rainfall totaling almost an inch.

The quantity and quality of fruit continues to be reported good in all areas with good ratios, especially on oranges. Few caretakers were resetting groves at this time, due to the availability of trees. Most grove owners have begun irrigating due to the dryer weather this past week.

Other grove activity included limited harvesting, herbicide application, and mowing. Scouting for greening and removal of affected trees was common primarily in the southern citrus growing region where the disease was the most widespread.

About 40 major packinghouses have opened and have begun shipping fruit, with only a few left that could open. Varieties being packed included early oranges (Navels, Ambersweet, and Hamlin), white and colored grapefruit, and early tangerines (Fallglo and Sunburst). Processing was still very limited at this time, with only five houses open and two to three more planning to open in the next week.


The state experienced dry conditions accompanied by morning frost during the week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Daily average high temperatures were in the low 60s most of the week. Average lows were in the 30s.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 6% very short, 30 percent short, 61 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus.

Frosty conditions have slowed peanut digging. Damage to soybean leaves has been reported due to some early morning frost. Some producers harvested their last cutting of hay for the year.

Rain was needed to provide moisture to plant winter grazing and other grains. None of the reporting weather sites reported rain during the week. Some growers reported good yields for cotton and peanuts.

Other activities included planting winter grazing and small grains.

County Extension agents reported an average of 6.2 days suitable for fieldwork.

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