Southeast USDA, NASS state field offices reported scattered showers around the area for the week ended June 10 that improved crop conditions for some growers. However, some areas continue to sink further into rainfall deficits. Parts of northern Alabama, as an example, was reclassified as being in “exceptional” drought as crops continued to wither.
A closer look:
Alabama farmers and ranchers continued to experience one of the most severe droughts in the United States this year as another week of scattered rainfall did little to alleviate the persistent dry soil conditions across the state.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has raised a substantial part of northern Alabama to level four, or “exceptional” drought conditions. Hot, dry weather had crops suffering tremendously.
Average temperatures were well above normal, with overnight lows ranging from 54 degrees in Opelika to 71 degrees in Dothan and daytime highs varying from 92 degrees in Sand Mountain and Bridgeport to 101 in Montgomery.
Most of District 60 received from 0.24 inches to 1.87 inches of rain during the past week. However, all reporting weather stations remained drastically below their year-to-date normal.
Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension agent, reported that small grain harvest in the county is almost complete. Producers have seen average to above average yields.
Many corn fields throughout the state have failed or have spotty, stunted stands. Many cases of prevented planting have been seen due to the drought. Doyle Dutton in the Lawrence County FSA office indicated that most of the corn crop in the county has failed. Corn fields in Covington County are reported to be stunted and starting to tassle.
Soybean planting in most areas of the state was at a standstill as producers continue to wait for some significant rainfall.
Dennis Delaney, soybean specialist at Auburn University, stated that many producers debated whether to plant at all due to the lateness in the crop season and the lack of subsoil moisture.
Heavy thrips pressure was seen in drought stricken soybean fields. Some producers considered not spraying because the crop is not worth the cost of the chemical inputs. Some established soybean fields in sandy soils were starting to die out from the lack of moisture.
Cotton planting was nearly complete, but moved along slowly as producers were hesitant to put seeds into dry soil. Many producers have planted their fields twice. A very small portion of the crop has emerged.
The portion of the crop that has been planted but has yet to emerge left growers wondering if there are viable seeds in the ground to germinate once a rain is received.
Producers that have cotton up to a stand were busy spraying glyphosate to manage early weeds, and insecticides to control thrips. Very few were side-dressing any nitrogen fertilizer.
Peanut planting inched forward as producers tried to get their crops in to meet insurance standards.
Livestock producers have had to make hard decisions as ponds and watering holes dry up, and feed and hay supplies get shorter. Many ranchers have sold their brood cows and pairs, and others continue to cull older cows to reduce herd sizes.
Jimmy Smitherman, Montgomery County Extension agent, noted that any new hay that has been baled has been limited to winter fescue and ryegrass. Producers that have no hay or pasture left fed supplements to cattle. Many people baled failed corn crop stands.
Rain fell in most areas during the week of June 4-10, due mainly to the clash of the Atlantic and Gulf sea breezes. Rain totaled from about one third inch to nearly three and a quarter inches in areas receiving significant rain. Some localities of the central and northern Peninsula remained somewhat dry with a tenth inch or less of rain recorded for the week.
The rains helped ease the threat of wildfire throughout the state. As of June 8, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry reported 83 active fires affecting 130,831 acres.
In the major cities, temperatures for the week averaged from one degree below normal in Tampa and Miami, to two degrees above in Jacksonville and Pensacola. Daytime highs were in the upper 80s and lower 90s. Nighttime lows were in the 60s and 70s with Immokalee and Balm reporting at least one low in the upper 50s at the beginning of the week.
Recent scattered showers increased soil moisture in some Panhandle and northern Peninsula areas which allowed peanut and cotton planting to resume.
Peanut condition was rated 25 percent very poor, 35 percent poor, 30 percent fair, and 10 percent good.
The Panhandle and the northwestern half of the northern Peninsula reported very short to short soil moisture while the rest of the northern Peninsula reported short to adequate soil moisture.
The central Peninsula reported mostly very short to short soil moisture. Dade County reported mostly adequate soil moisture and a few spots of surplus supplies which represented less than a half percent statewide. The rest of the southern Peninsula reported short soil moisture supplies.
Vegetable harvest is slowing seasonally over the central and southern Peninsula as production increases in the northern areas and in other states. In the Quincy area, tomato picking increased seasonally.
Vegetables and non-citrus fruit shipped during the week included cantaloupes, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and watermelons. Growers also marketed very light amounts of dry onions, snap beans, and blueberries.
The state experienced hot temperatures and scattered showers this past week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office.
Highs averaged from the upper 80s to the mid-90s. Average lows were in the 60s. Scattered showers brought some relief from the drought, but many areas of the state remained dry.
Topsoil moisture conditions were rated at 34 percent very short, 32 percent short, 33 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.
Areas of the state that received considerable rainfall from Tropical Storm Barry, coupled with scattered showers this week, reported some improvement in crop conditions.
One county in central Georgia reported that dusted in cotton and peanuts were making stands of 85 percent to 90 percent. Areas that have not received as much rain, especially the northwest and southwest corners of the state, have seen little to no improvement.
Farmers across the state agreed that much more rain was needed for crops, pastures, and hayfields to show significant recovery from the drought.
Insect pressure on cotton remained high due to dry conditions.
Growers reported little disease pressure in vegetables. Planting of soybeans, cotton, and peanuts continued. Other activities included feeding hay to livestock and spraying tobacco for worms.
County Extension agents reported an average of 5.8 days suitable for fieldwork.
Two separate cold fronts passed through the state last week, bringing widely scattered showers and thunderstorms. Some areas received good rainfall, while other areas received little, if any.
Although last week's precipitation was certainly welcomed, it did little to offset the prevailing hot and dry conditions, and all areas of the state are still in need of a good soaking rain.
Development of the state's major row crops remained on or ahead of schedule with crop conditions mostly in the fair-to-good rating categories.
Winter wheat growers began their harvest on schedule last week.
The first cutting of hay passed the 90 percent mark last week, with the dry conditions forcing some farmers to cut fields not usually used for hay production. This first-cutting for some producers was going straight to the hay ring as pastures remained short. Some cattle producers were faced with herd culling or liquidation decisions.
There were 6 days considered suitable for fieldwork.
Topsoil moisture levels were rated 45 percent very short, 40 percent short, and 15 percent adequate. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 49 percent very short, 39 percent short, and 12 percent adequate.
Temperatures last week averaged around 5 degrees above normal, while rainfall amounts averaged around an inch to half an inch below normal statewide.
County agent comments:
"Crops continue to suffer. Scattered localized rain has helped some areas, but general rainfall is sorely needed. Wheat farmers are harvesting, and yields are all over the spectrum." Jerry Parker, Lauderdale County
"Dry! Crops are starting to show lack of moisture. The cotton situation varies from some that is not emerged to some that is at 8 leaves and match-head square. Soybeans are in a similar situation with some yet to be planted and some in full bloom. One farmer stated that in one specific field there was no yield where freeze hit, some in other spots, and green areas of re-growth." Jeffery D. Via, Fayette County
"The drought continues. Farmers are in a panic mode. With very little pasture, numerous water sources drying up, and limited hay from the first cutting, the sell-off of beef cattle has begun. Crops are in the worst shape I have ever seen for the first week of June." Calvin Bryant, Lawrence County
"Corn is twisting, even on the better ground. A lot of hay was put up without getting rained on, but yields are one third to one half of normal. We got a little rain on Friday afternoon, but not enough to drive the moisture down to the root zone yet." David K. Glover, Smith County
"I do not see how this corn crop is hanging on! It has been rolling and twisting for nearly a month in the afternoons, but unrolls and looks great in the mornings while continuing to grow slowly. Cattle producers are beginning to cull and liquidate herds. There are large runs on local markets with producers reporting waiting in lines two miles from stock yards to unload." Ed Burns, Franklin County
"We are finding good hay quality but poor quantity. (59 percent of 2006 crop for the 5 fields we tested) Tobacco growers are not setting until it rains. Very widely scattered showers have been in the .05" to .10" range. Totals for May were around 1.5 to 2.0 inches. Cattle are hitting the market. Hay stocks are seriously low and future production looks bleak. We are planning on sowing 20 acres of switchgrass, but can't get enough moisture yet. We need a good soaking rain!" John J. Goddard, Loudon County
Tropical Storm Barry was a lifesaver for South Carolina the previous weekend, but more rain is now needed. Scattered thunderstorms early last week and again this weekend were a help to the crops that received the moisture, but most of the state did not receive any significant rainfall for the entire week.
Soils dried out somewhat from the high temperatures at the end of last week, and were rated at 6 percent very short, 42 percent short and 52 percent adequate.
Days suitable for fieldwork across the state averaged 6.2 for the week.
Corn was beginning to silk and could use rain. The crop was reported at 5 percent very poor, 21 percent poor, 50 percent fair, and 24 percent good.
Tobacco has been growing well due to warm nights and good moisture. Conditions were 8 percent poor, 60 percent fair, 27 percent good, and 5 percent excellent.
Cotton was looking better in some areas, after farmers had difficulty getting good stands. Peanuts were mostly fair to good. Soybean emergence has been sporadic in some fields, since a lot of acreage was planted prior to Barry, and there was insufficient rain to germinate the seed.
Oat and winter wheat harvests have continued. Early yields from harvested crops were not looking very good. Wheat yield is forecasted at only 30 bushels per acre, down from 50 bushels per acre last year.
Livestock condition remained fair to good. Pasture conditions did not change much from last week to this week.
Vegetable planting was all but done, and harvesting of early planted crops was progressing.
Peaches remained very poor, and were rated 94 percent very poor, 2 percent poor and 4 percent fair. The recent peach survey forecasted a crop of only 8,000 tons this year, down 87 percent from last year.
Apple conditions were still 40 percent very poor, 30 percent poor and 30 percent fair.
The majority of the state received rain throughout the week, which aided the dry conditions.
There were 5.9 days suitable for field work this past week compared to the 6.3 days from the previous week.
Statewide, soil moisture levels are rated at 22 percent very short, 36 percent short, 41 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.
Activities during the week included planting peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, sweetpotatoes, and burley tobacco. First cutting of hay, and harvesting of truck crops and small grains continue to progress.
Scattered rainfall received over this past weekend has improved some crop conditions. However, more rainfall is needed across the Commonwealth.
Days suitable for work were 5.9. Topsoil moisture was adequate.
More corn and tobacco was side-dressed with nitrogen. Soybean planting continues. Small grain harvest is beginning. Hay cutting has resumed.
Vegetable planting and harvesting also continued this past week.
Other farm activities included repairing equipment and bush-hogging fields.