It’s been a difficult summer for applying generalities to lower Southeastern weather conditions.
While dryland corn has toasted in parts of Alabama, entire fields have been washed out by flooding in north Florida.
In late June, Tropical Storm Debby was truly a drought buster for parts of north Florida, but she also left plenty of damage in her wake, dumping up to 25 inches of rain in some areas and washing out fields in the state’s Panhandle and north-central regions.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the storm dropped 5 inches or more of rain over most of the Florida drought areas, with widespread 10-plus inch storm totals. Parts of extreme southern and southeast Georgia also were in Debby’s path, with the rainfall relieving drought conditions in that area of the state.
The drought monitor reports that the “tropical inundation all but eliminated drought from Florida.” Only a small patch of low-level drought conditions remained along the southwest coast where Debby’s rainfall totals of only an inch or two did little to eliminate deficits which have accumulated over several months.
July brought more scattered rain showers, and soil moisture across the northern field crop region of Florida continued to improve while some growers in Columbia County continued to assess damage from the tropical storm.
Irrigated and non-irrigated crops were reported in mostly good condition, and by late July, some growers had even started harvesting early peanuts in northern Florida. The peanut condition was rated 1 percent poor, 11 percent fair, 80 percent good, and 8 percent excellent.
Favorable weather conditions allowed Florida growers to prepare fields for fall crop planting.
Producers marketed avocadoes in Homestead, and okra harvesting remained active in Miami-Dade County. Tomato picking declined seasonally in the Quincy area as growers begin to prepare for the fall tomato season, and watermelon harvesting concluded in mid-July.
Statewide,most pastures in all areas of Florida were in good condition in July. Drought was the limiting factor followed by flooding. The condition of the state’s cattle ranged from very poor to excellent with most in good condition, though extreme heat was causing some problems.
In the Panhandle, pastures were in very poor to excellent condition with most fair. Low-lying pastures in Baker County which had standing water were recovering. In the central areas, the pastures were in very poor to excellent condition with most rated good.
The cattle condition was poor to excellent with most in good condition. In the southwestern areas, the pasture conditions were fair to excellent. The condition of the cattle ranged from poor to excellent with most in good condition in southwest Florida.
Parched crops in Alabama
Meanwhile, in north Alabama, sustained temperatures of more than 100 degrees F. were parching some dryland crops, especially later-planted corn.
In Madison County, in the state’s Tennessee Valley region, FSA officials were reporting the most devastating summer in recent memory, with extremely hot temperatures and accompanying drought.
Farmers who planted double-crop soybeans behind wheat were hoping in late July that rain showers would help to salvage their crops.
Nearly half of Alabama has been declared a primary natural disaster area by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.
Vilsack named 33 of Alabama's 67 counties in his disaster designation letter sent to Gov. Robert Bentley in late July.
The 33 named counties have had either D-2 severe drought, as measured by the U.S. Drought Monitor, for eight or more consecutive weeks, or have had D-3 extreme drought or higher at any time during the growing season.
The counties are Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Talladega, Tallapoosa and Wilcox.
This disaster designation means that farmers in those counties and in 12 contiguous counties — including the Birmingham metro counties of Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair — are eligible for Farm Service Agency emergency loans and other assistance for the next eight months.
The condition of Alabama’s corn crop was varied in mid to late July, with 37 percent rated poor, 33 percent fair, and 20 percent good.
Cotton was 17 percent poor, 61 percent fair, and 14 percent good.
The condition of peanuts was considerably better with 1 percent rated poor, 46 percent rated fair, and 53 percent good.
The ratings on soybeans were 25 percent poor, 51 percent fair, and 18 percent good. Virtually none of the state’s row crops were rated in excellent condition.
In Georgia, 142 or nearly all of the state’s counties have been declared primary or continuous drought disaster areas by USDA.
Most of the state’s topsoil moisture was rated at very short to adequate as dry conditions prevailed despite scattered showers.
One-hundred-plus degree temperatures had stunted crop growth in some regions of the state. Exceptional drought conditions persisted in a swatch stretching from extreme southwest Georgia to the northeast portion of the state.
Georgia’s corn crop was rated 23 percent fair, 48 percent good, and 10 percent excellent in July. Cotton was 38 percent fair, 45 percent good, and 13 percent excellent. The state’s peanut crop was rated 27 percent fair, 55 percent good, and 16 percent excellent. Soybeans were 25 percent fair, 49 percent good, and 16 percent excellent.