Rainfall benefits wheat crop, slows harvest

Most of the Southeast received rainfall last week, slowing harvest and reducing cotton and peanut quality, but giving a much needed boost to winter wheat and pasture land.

Much more moisture will be needed over the winter months to restore depleted soil moisture, however.

For a look at how the week ending Oct. 28 played out across the area here’s a look provided by the various state USDA/NASS offices.


Advantageous rainfall fell for a second week, and pushed the continued improvement of soil moisture conditions in rain-starved Alabama. The U.S. Drought Monitor showed contraction of the epicenter to the exceptional drought conditions that have plagued Alabama for most of this year’s crop season.

The southern-most areas of Baldwin and Mobile counties were categorized as drought free during the past week. Numerous county reporters indicated the welcomed moisture that was received was beneficial, but that more rainfall was needed to replenish the soil moisture levels that were depleted during the hot, dry summer months.

Average temperatures during the past week varied from as many as six degrees below to just above normal. Daytime highs ranged from 79 degrees in Bridgeport to 88 degrees in Dothan. Overnight lows were cool, and ranged from 39 degrees in Talladega, Pinson, Tuscaloosa, and Jasper to 44 degrees in Birmingham, Eufaula, and Headland.

All reporting weather stations had rainfall accumulation during the past week, with the most moisture received in northern regions of the state. Totals varied from 0.17 inches in Headland in a 3-day period to 4.06 inches in Hamilton spread over 5 days.

The moisture received during the past week had producers busy planting their wheat crop in hopes of better seed germination. Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension agent, and James D. Jones, Jr., Henry County Extension agent, stated farmers in these counties were in their fields making soil preparations and planting small grains for seed harvest, as well as winter grazing for their livestock herd.

Russell C. Parrish, Jr., Crenshaw County Extension agent, added that the rain was too late to increase crop yields, but was good for winter grazing that was just planted. Soybean harvest continued despite the wet soil conditions in some parts of the state. Progress remained behind last year, but well ahead of the five-year average.

Producers stayed busy harvesting cotton and peanuts in the face of the well received rain that fell over the past week. Cotton harvest leapt forward nearly 20 percent from a week ago and was well ahead of last year and the five-year average.

Mr. Jones mentioned that cotton and peanut harvest were about halfway complete in Henry County, with producers realizing varied yields on both crops.

Most cattle producers received much needed rainfall on their pastures and hay fields during the past couple of weeks.

As a result, the pasture land greened up and provided some much needed nutrition to cattle herds. Darrell Rankins, beef specialist at Auburn University, reported winter annuals such as ryegrass, wheat, and oats were behind normal productivity for this time of year, but were given a boost by the recent showers. The majority of hay producers were only able to harvest approximately one-third of their normal hay crop. Therefore, winter hay supplies were expected to be extremely limited.

The prices for supplemental feeds were high due to the increased price of corn. Livestock were reported in mostly very poor and poor condition during the past week. Herd sell-off and cattle culling had slowed.


The state experienced dramatically cooler temperatures this past week as well as some much-needed rainfall, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Average high temperatures ranged from the mid-60s to the mid-80s. Average lows ranged from the upper 40s to the lower 60s.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 17 percent very short, 35 percent short, 45 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus.

Rains, this past week, temporarily improved drought conditions, but hurt cotton and peanut quality and delayed harvesting. Even with the rains, producers in north Georgia were sowing small grains into their pastures hoping to extend grazing and alleviate the hay shortage. Lots of peanut hay was being baled and sold.

Several cattle producers reported dried up creeks and streams. In some cases, producers have resorted to drilling wells or hauling in water, from other sources, to provide water to their cattle.

A few farmers were waiting for more rain before planting small grains and winter grazing. Others will not plant winter crops due to the drought.

Other activities included mowing tobacco stalks, digging and combining peanuts, cutting and baling hay, and harvesting green beans. County Extension Agents reported an average of 5.0 days suitable for fieldwork.

District comments

District 1 — Northwest

Rains the past two days were a welcome sight. We received a little under one inch. But it is going to take a whole lot more to get things back to near normal. Even with the rains, a lot of producers no-tilled small grains into their pastures, hoping to extend grazing since there is such a hay shortage.

District 2 – North Central

Showers this week temporarily improved current pasture conditions but drought conditions continue.

District 3 — Northeast

We are in desperate need of more rainfall.

Rain improved situation temporarily.

District 4 — West Central

Received much needed rain this week. Several cattle producers have reported dried up creeks and streams. A few producers have drilled wells or are hauling water to their cattle from other water sources. It is dry. There are some late dryland peanuts in the ground. A lot of late cotton needs to be defoliated. Light and scattered rain provided some relief and helped keep some moisture in the soil, but soil moisture is greatly deficient. Winter grazing and small grain crops are beginning to be planted. Pastures, ponds, streams are struggling.

District 5 — Central

Some very light showers this week, 3-4 tenths of an inch in most locations. Hay feeding to livestock increasing. Pond and stream levels continue to drop. Many producers waiting for more rain before finishing up planting small grains and winter grazing. We are still very dry. We need an extended period of rain. Rains continue to fall this week in the county. Many farmers are waiting for favorable harvesting weather to gather more hay. Abundant summer grasses have slowed the drilling of winter rye, wheat, and ryegrass.

District 6 — East Central

Still very dry after only getting one half inch this past week. Cotton harvest slow, peanut harvest late but yields are decent to very good. Irrigated soybean yields very good. Too dry to think about planting winter crops. Lots of peanut hay being baled and sold. Many questions about what to plant next year to take advantage of high commodity prices but not sacrifice rotation. Some scattered showers.

District 7 — Southwest

We received 0.59 inch of rainfall. Final greenbean acreage harvesting. Continues to be dry. Cooler temperatures have slowed down the maturity of late planted cotton and peanuts.

District 8 — South Central

Week of rainfall hurt cotton and peanut quality or grade. Needed rain for small grains and in general, but was not good for harvesting. Mowing tobacco stalks. Cutting hay. Some peanuts having to be reshaken.


Rain limited field work in some areas during the week of Oct. 22-28. Rainfall ranged from traces in portions of the southwest Peninsula, eastern Panhandle, and Big Bend areas to two and three quarter’s inches in Ft. Lauderdale. Some extreme southern Peninsula and western Panhandle localities unofficially recorded three to 10 inches of rain for the week.

Several Atlantic coast, central Peninsula, and western Panhandle areas received one half inch to over two inches.

Daily temperatures averaged two to four degrees above normal in the major cities, except for four degrees below normal in Pensacola. Most daytime highs averaged in the 70s and 80s with many localities recording at least one high in the 90s. Most nighttime lows were in the 50s, 60s, and 70s with Pensacola, Marianna, and Monticello recording at least one low in the 40s.

In Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, heavy rains stopped the harvesting of cotton, peanuts, and soybeans, lowered the quality of peanuts and cotton, and impacted yield prospects. Harvesting resumed as fields dried at the end of the week.

In Jefferson County, temperatures were too hot to bring on dormancy for digging ornamentals. The planting of small grains was active with more moisture and cooler temperatures needed to ensure good stands. Peanut digging was three-fourths complete, while cotton picking was getting under way. The pecan crop was in good condition with good fill and excellent nut quality.

In Washington County, peanut quality and yields were quite variable in different parts of the county. Cotton yields were reported as being down significantly for most growers.

Pasco County reported recent rainfall increased soil moisture.

In Desoto County, rainfall has been scarce, but a number of growers reported trouble baling hay due to high moisture.

Statewide, peanut condition was rated 30 percent poor, 15 percent fair, 50 percent good, and 5 percent excellent.

Most soil moisture ratings improved due to the recent rainfall. In the Panhandle, topsoil moisture was rated mostly adequate while subsoil moisture ranged from very short to short to mostly adequate. In the Big Bend area and northern Peninsula, both topsoil and subsoil moisture were rated mostly adequate. Over the central and southern Peninsula, both topsoil and subsoil moisture were rated short to mostly adequate. Counties reporting areas with very short soil moisture included Putnam, Pasco, Holmes, Washington, Desoto, and Brevard. Counties reporting areas with surplus soil moisture included Jackson, Miami-Dade, Brevard, Marion, St. Johns, Clay, and Baker.

In the Quincy area, heavy rainfall slowed the harvesting of tomatoes.

Suwannee Valley: The quality of beans improved slightly, but the recent heavy rains lowered prospects. Bean yields were reported as being below normal. The watermelon crop was in fair condition with cutting active. Cucumber and pepper quality improved significantly with harvesting under way.

Conventional and organic crop harvesting was expected to continue until the first frost.

West Central: Crops were in good condition. The planting of strawberries and the harvesting of squash were active. In the Homestead area, squash harvesting was expected to start within the next 5 days as okra harvesting continues.

Southwest: Crops were looking good; however, higher than normal temperatures were causing early maturation in some crops. Fall crop planting, staking, and tying remained in high gear. Growers were starting to harvest some early cucumbers and specialty crops. The tomato and pepper harvest also started. Potato planting began.

St Johns, Flagler, and Putnam counties: Squash and cucumber harvest continued. Growers expected to start broccoli harvesting next month. The planting of cabbage and mixed greens was active with some field work slowed by rain.

Plant City, Dover: The transplanting of strawberry plants continued with farmers irrigating recent sets due to extremely dry conditions. The harvest of zucchini squash was active. Starke: Strawberry planting was active.

East Coast: Bell pepper picking was active.

Washington County: White flies continued to be significant a problem for growers.

In the Panhandle and northern areas, pasture condition was poor to excellent, most were good. Cooler weather had started to slow forage growth. In the western Panhandle, pastures were green, but grazed very close in most areas.

Hay cutting continued with less grass, with much more peanut hay being harvested this year. Planting of winter graze small grains was under way. Recent rains did not significantly raise stock pond water levels, but did soften soil enough to permit planting of cool season forages. Cattle condition was fair to good.

In central areas, pasture condition was good to excellent. There was considerable damage from armyworms, with some operations missing timely spray treatments. Hay making was hindered by wet weather. Recent rains helped soil moisture, but ruined some hay that was down. Hay supplies were short. Cattle condition was poor to excellent with most in good condition.

In the southwest areas, pasture was very poor to excellent with most in fair to good condition. Pasture insects (armyworms, loopers) numbers are high. A number of growers have reported trouble baling hay due to high moisture. Statewide, cattle condition was mostly good.


Virtually all harvest activities were brought to a standstill last week due to steady rain showers throughout the week. With only 2 days suitable for fieldwork, farmers worked on machinery, renovated pastures, stripped burley, and harvested some fall crops, as weather permitted.

Despite the frequent showers, most field activities are still ahead or on-schedule with last year, with the exception of winter wheat planting. The moisture also benefited the recently seeded wheat, which now has a better chance to germinate and emerge healthy.

Cotton producers made slow progress last week and only harvested a fraction of the remaining acreage, but they are still two weeks ahead of the 5-year average.

With soybean harvest approaching the halfway mark, farmers remain on schedule with last year and slightly ahead of the 5-year average.

Topsoil moisture levels were rated 11 percent very short, 19 percent short, 48 percent adequate, and 22 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 33 percent very short, 35 percent short, 30 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.

Temperatures averaged five to 10 degrees below normal across West Tennessee and one to five degrees above normal in the East. Rainfall across west and middle Tennessee last week averaged well above normal, while northeast Tennessee was not as lucky, getting less than an inch across the area.

County Agent Comments

“Our county got over 10 inches of rain this week. Pastures look better now than all summer. Farmers still need to harvest the soybean crop.” Steve Glass, Decatur County

“The farmers in Fayette County were not able to get in their fields this week due to rain showers almost everyday. This was something we needed a few months back.” Jeffery D. Via, Fayette County

“Eight inches of rain over the last 10 days has helped to restore soil moisture and fill ponds. Pastures that still have fescue in them are starting to green up. Tobacco farmers are enjoying great weather for stripping the crop. Grain farmers still need a few more days of dry weather to finish the harvest.” Ronnie Barron, Cheatham County

“As much rain as Tennessee had, Coffee County was almost missed again. The average rainfall for the week was slightly over 1". Some areas were a whopping 1.25" down to 0.75" in other areas.” Dean Northcutt, Coffee County

“Rain across the county measured in the range of 0.10 to 1.00 inch. Ponds continue to dry and cattle herd reduction is the norm with little hay in reserve.” John Wilson, Blount County

“The good news is we received 1.55 inches of rain this week! I saw 2 ponds yesterday that had been dry most of the summer, now are holding a small amount of water. The rain has now loosened the soil up enough for fire ant mounds to pop up. Most farmers have sold off calves and their low-end cows. Producers are stretching hay supplies with commercial feeds and commodity feeds. I talked to a local dairyman yesterday who has given up (He sold all of his cows this past week). I receive calls daily from other states with hay for sale. With the cost of freight, most local farmers are reluctant to purchase grass hay delivered for $150/ton or more. Fall seeded wheat is now emerging. A few producers are beginning to mow their second cutting of hay.” John Goddard, Loudon County

South Carolina

South Carolina was thankful to have received a long and steady rainfall across the state this past week. As much rainfall as fell across the Low Country and Midlands, it was difficult to believe that much of the Upstate and Central Savannah River Area received less than an inch of precipitation. Even areas that had two or more inches of rain, reported little standing water in fields. Irrigation ponds remain low.

Soil moisture for the week improved, but overall it is still dry. Average ratings were 39 percent very short, 28 percent short, and 33 percent adequate. The statewide average of days suitable for field work was 5.1.

Cotton harvest is now over 50 percent complete. The cotton condition was 29 percent very poor, 27 percent poor, 32 percent fair, and 12 percent good.

Oat planting should be in high gear now that we’ve had rain.

The peanut harvest is moving along. Yields are not looking too bad, especially along coastal areas. The condition was 8 percent very poor, 19 percent poor, 48 percent fair, 21 percent good, and 4 percent excellent.

The rain was too late for the soybean crop. Most of the leaves have already turned color and have fallen or begun to fall. The condition of the crop was 28 percent very poor, 28 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 11 percent good, and 1 percetn excellent.

Sweet potatoes are still in mostly fair condition with most of the crop harvested from the field.

Winter wheat planting should be very active with the increased soil moisture.

Livestock conditions changed only slightly from the previous week. Pasture conditions did not improve as temperatures remained well above normal for much of the week, and rainfall amounts were generally lighter in upstate and western counties.

North Carolina

North Carolina received a substantial amount of rain with all stations reporting between 0.66 and 5.85 inches. Almost all stations reported average temperatures ranging from 5 to 15 degrees above normal.

There were 3.9 days suitable for field work, compared to 6.4 from the previous week. Statewide, soil moisture levels are rated at 12 percent very short, 24 percent short, 57 percent adequate, and 7 percetn surplus.

Activities during the week included the harvesting of cotton, sweet potatoes, soybeans, peanuts and sorghum. Other activities included the planting of small grains.


The majority of the Commonwealth received much needed precipitation this week. Days suitable for work were 3.8. Topsoil moisture was generally adequate. The rain that fell over a 3-4 day span put somewhat of a welcomed damper on farm operations this week.

Livestock producers are hoping that the rainfall will improve pasture conditions despite expected frosts in the coming week. Most producers are feeding hay despite the high demand.

Small grain plantings have slowed with attention beginning to turn to harvesting double-crop soybeans.

The cotton harvest continued this past week.

Other activities included finalizing crop insurance and booking corn and soybeans.

Reporter comments by county:

Comments are based on comments reported by Extension agents, farmers, commodity specialists, and other knowledgeable individuals.

Northumberland (Matt Lewis)

“Last week saw a temporary end to agricultural drought conditions, as areas received anywhere from 3 to 6-plus inches of rain over a four day period. Farmers are finishing with wheat seeding and shifting attention to the harvest of double-crop soybeans. Though soybean yields are low due to drought conditions, total revenue is not far from average due to higher commodity prices. Other activities during last week's rainy spell included finalizing crop insurance claims for corn and booking of corn and soybean seed for 2008 planting.”

Richmond (Kelly Liddington)

“Received anywhere from 3 to 6-plus inches of rain in the area over three days. It was a good first installment on the precipitation deficiency. Hay feeding is in full swing now for most cow herds.”

Highland (Rodney Leech)

“Most areas of the County received 3.5 to 4.5 inches in a 3-day span. The rain was a good soaker that recharged springs and streams. Rye cover crops are responding and a green tint is showing up on pastures and hay meadows.”

Grayson (Kevin Spurlin)

“Areas of the county received from 6 to 10 inches of rain last week which provided much needed drought relief. The rain was steady, but not excessive. Flooding was minimal with most of the rain soaking in.”

Montgomery (Barry Robinson)

“Most of the area received approximately 3-5 inches of rain last week, greatly improving the soil moisture situation, and that of pastures, hayfields and winter grain crops (if in the ground). But predicted killing frosts will greatly slow rejuvenation of forages, so rebound may not be as strong as hoped.”

Brunswick (Cynthia L. Gregg)

“Brunswick County got much needed rain as did much of Virginia. There were 4 inches or more that fell. Cooler temperatures helped with some grass growth along with the rain. Some planted small grains are sprouting after the rain. The livestock and producers both enjoyed the rain.”


Much needed rainfall arrived last week across the state as significant rainfall provided higher rainfall totals in a four day period than the October monthly normal. The heavy rain provided much needed relief from drought conditions.

Temperatures in the Commonwealth averaged 56 degrees, which was 1 degree above normal and 11 degrees below the previous week. There were 2.3 days suitable for fieldwork.

Main farm activities were harvesting corn and soybeans, and stripping tobacco. Topsoil moisture was rated 8 percent very short, 13 percent short, 58 percent adequate, 21 percent surplus as of Sunday, October 28. Subsoil moisture was rated 32 percent very short, 24 percent short, 38 percent adequate, and 6 percent surplus.

Tobacco: Increased humidity helped tobacco curing and stripping. The condition of stripped tobacco was reported as 3 percent very poor, 13 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 41 percent good and 10 percent excellent. Twenty-four percent of tobacco had been stripped compared to 23 percent last year and 25 percent the five year average.

Corn: The corn harvest was nearly complete with 98 percent of the crop combined as of Sunday, Oct. 28. This continued well ahead of the 89 percent harvested last year and the five year average of 93 percent. Heavy rain prevented completion of combining.

Soybeans: Very wet field conditions slowed the soybean harvest. As of Sunday, Oct. 28, 73 percent of the soybeans had been harvested, well ahead of the 57 percent reported last year and the five year average of 62 percent.

Other crops and pasture:

As of Sunday, Oct. 28, 65 percent of wheat was seeded, behind 67 percent seeded last year and ahead 62 percent for the five year average. Pasture condition improved dramatically with rainfall with 28 percent very poor, 35 percent poor, 27 percent fair, 9 percent good, and 1 percent excellent. Eighty-four percent of producers

reported they will not have an adequate supply of hay for this winter’s feeding. Rain replenished drought stricken stock ponds.

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