Southeast crop harvest gains momentum

Harvest machinery continued to roll across the Southeast this past week as growers gathered their 2007 crops, with yields reflecting the droughty growing season.

Here’s how the picture unfolded during the week ending Sept. 30 as reported by the various state USDA, NASS field offices.


Showers slowed some field work in the southern Peninsula and in the Monticello area during the week of Sept. 24-30. Rain totaled from traces in many Panhandle, central, and northern Peninsula localities, to over six inches in Fort Lauderdale.

Most of the showers fell over parts of the central and southern Peninsula. Most central and southern Peninsula stations recorded from a quarter up to an inch of rain for the week.

Temperatures averaged from one degree below normal in West Palm Beach, to five degrees above in Tallahassee. Daytime highs were in the 80s and 90s while nighttime lows were in the 60s and 70s.

The recent rains lowered the danger of wild fire over most of the state. However, the danger remains high for the extreme northern Peninsula and the Panhandle.

Peanut harvesting proceeded at a rapid pace in the Panhandle and northern Peninsula. In Jackson County, yields from irrigated fields were good. In Jefferson County, peanut yields were not consistent due to late planting with a considerable acreage not yet mature.

Peanut condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 20 percent poor, 39 percent fair, 20 percent good, and 20 percent excellent.

Cotton picking and baling continued in northern Peninsula and Panhandle localities.

Topsoil moisture was rated very short to adequate and subsoil moisture was rated very short to short in the Big Bend area. Elsewhere, soil moisture was mostly rated short to adequate. Jackson, Marion, Sumter, Hendry, and Miami-Dade counties reported some spots with surplus topsoil moisture. Okeechobee, Desoto, Jackson, Suwannee, and Jefferson counties reported some localities with very short soil moisture.

Lying of plastic and vegetable planting gained momentum in Dade County with several fields of snap beans and a small amount of tomatoes already planted. In the Immokalee area, land preparation and planting were slowed slightly by rainfall. Growers picked a very small amount of cucumbers during the week. Tomato picking was under way in the Quincy area.

In the Panhandle and northern areas, pasture condition was poor to excellent with most in good condition. It was too dry in many locations for planting small grains, clover, or ryegrass for winter grazing. The cost of small grains for seeding increased. Stocks of hay were low. Cattle condition was mostly fair to good. In central areas, pasture condition was fair to excellent with most in fair condition, while recent rain greened up the pastures. However, armyworm damage continued.

In the southwest areas, pasture was poor to excellent with most in fair condition. Fall armyworms hit pastures this past week in high numbers.

Statewide, cattle condition was very poor to excellent with most in fair condition.


A cold front arrived over the weekend dropping temperatures across the state, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Average high temperatures decreased from the upper 80s during the week to the lower 80s over the weekend. Average lows fell from the upper 60s to the mid-50s.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 33 percent very short, 31 percent short, 34 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.

Overall, there was little change in crop conditions this past week. North Georgia remained very dry and crop conditions there continued to be the worst in the state. Crops to the south were in better shape due to more frequent rains

There were some reports of hard-locked cotton. Cotton defoliant applications were increasing. Some growers with dryland fields reported they may wait for frost rather than trigger defoliation.

There were reports of whiteflies in green beans and armyworms in pastures and hayfields.

Producers continued planting small grains and pastures for winter grazing. Other activities included checking peanut maturity, grading and digging peanuts, cutting and baling hay, and checking late soybeans for rust.

District comments

District 1 — Northwest:

Still missing scattered showers.

District 2 — North Central:

Drought conditions continue. Many cattlemen now feeding hay due to poor pasture conditions. Corn silage harvest almost completed.

District 3 — Northeast:

Conditions continue to deteriorate.

District 4 — West Central:

A week of higher temps and no rain kicked us back hard. Moisture for small grain planting/winter grazing rapidly leaving. Did roll a bit more hay.

District 5 — Central:

Cooler temperatures and very little rain. Small grain and winter grazing planting continues. Some producers trying to harvest some hay before armyworms can eat it up. Recent rains have really turned pastures and hayfields around for the better. A very good harvest of second cutting of hay for the season is under way. Producers are too busy trying to get this second cutting of hay to plant winter grazing yet.

District 6 — East Central:

Cotton is weak...hard-locked, not able to be picked. Many dryland fields may wait for frost rather than defoliate. Peanuts are pretty good but many fields will need rain as will Group VII and Group VIII soybeans which have very good potential. Growers scrambling to find wheat seed.

District 7 — Southwest:

We received 0.11" of rainfall. Whitefly problems in green bean fields. Cotton defoliant applications increasing. Crop condition unchanged for the most part. We did receive a good overall 1.5 inch rain. Will help fill out soybean crop and peanut crop on dryland. Irrigation ponds completely dried up. Will need a good winter of wet weather to replenish water supply.

District 8 — South Central:

Checking peanuts for maturity. Harvesting rows around fields. Digging early planted peanuts. Wet foggy mornings affecting hay baling. Cotton opening and beginning to drop leaves. No defoliants sprayed yet. Checking late soybeans for rust. Tobacco pounds made may average 2,500 pounds per acre. Need dry harvest weather. Grades on large seeded peanut varieties are not good on dryland crop.


During the past week, drought conditions continued to plague most of Alabama, as spotty rain showers did very little to improve conditions. The U.S. Drought Monitor classified 48.7 percent of the state as still suffering from exceptional drought conditions. This was just four-tenths of a percent improvement from the week before. There were no extreme or exceptional drought conditions recorded for the state at this time last year.

Temperatures for the past week were well above average for this time of year. Daytime highs ranged from 89 degrees in Sand Mountain, Guntersville, Bay Minette, and Highland Home to 93 degrees in Bridgeport and Pinson. Overnight lows dipped to a chilly 47 degrees in Hamilton and Bridgeport, but remained muggy at 66 degrees in Mobile.

Rainfall during the past week was erratic. Most weather stations reported varied accumulations ranging from just a trace to 1.97 inches in Montgomery. Jimmy Smitherman, Montgomery County Extension agent, noted that some areas missed the limited rainfall during the week and still needed more moisture. Year-to- date precipitation deficits in some parts of the state remained more than 25 inches below normal.

Corn harvest was wrapped up in most areas of the state during the past week. Donald Mann in the Jackson County FSA office added that corn harvested for grain yields were all over the board this year. Producers saw yields that ranged from 10 to 175 bushels per acre from non-irrigated fields, with the average between 50 and 80 bushels per acre.

The condition of the state’s soybean crop remained mostly dismal, with only 28 percent reported in fair or good condition. Mr. Mann also reported that soybean yields in Jackson County had varied greatly, but were mostly on the low side. One producer averaged only 7 bushels per acre on his best field. Some producers cut the worst acreage for use as hay.

Cotton harvest progressed ahead of the five- year average, but remained well behind last year. William Birdsong, Extension agronomist at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center, indicated that cotton yields were quite sporadic, and had ranged from 150 to 800 pounds per acre with an average between 300 to 500 pounds per acre. Leaf-footed bugs were found in late-planted cotton stands, and sprays were warranted to protect against damage to upper boll development.

Mr. Mann mentioned that harvest in Jackson County had just begun.

Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension agent, reported that cotton producers were busy defoliating cotton and servicing pickers as harvest approached.

John S. Pulliam, Macon County Extension Agent, stated that spotty rain showers had some cotton and peanut fields looking good, but yields had been reduced.

Alabama’s peanut crop remained in mostly fair to excellent condition. Russell C. Parrish, Jr., Crenshaw County Extension Agent, noted that peanut digging and combining was under way in the county. Some stands looked better than was previously expected, but that overall, the peanut crop was expected to be short this year.

Pasture conditions remained virtually unchanged during the past week, with the majority in very poor or poor condition. Producers were busy in hay fields where enough growth had occurred to warrant harvesting.

Alabama’s livestock condition remained steady during the past week, with most cattle in very poor or poor condition. Mr. Mann stated that livestock producers in Jackson County were still feeding hay if they had any. Others elected to sell their entire herds, along with what little hay they had left.


Although there were scattered showers across the state last week, Tennessee farmers took advantage of mostly dry weather and made good progress harvesting row crops. Corn producers were finishing up harvest, while soybean and cotton farmers are well under way. Soybean harvest was over a fourth completed at week's end, with development 2 weeks ahead of normal. Cotton farmers also took advantage of last week's dry conditions to advance harvest, ahead of last year and the five-year average by more than a week. Tobacco growers continued harvest with progress running at a normal pace.

Pasture conditions ranged from very poor-to-fair, even with the rain showers. Many beef producers continued feeding hay and hauling water. Cattle were rated in mostly fair-to-good condition, while hay stocks were rated 46 percent very short, 37 percent short, and 17 percent adequate.

A few farmers have started sowing winter wheat, but the majority are awaiting more rain for land preparations and seeding.

Fertilizer and lime applications and burley stripping were some of the other farming activities taking place last week.

Above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall were reported across the entire state last week, allowing 6 days for field work. Topsoil moisture levels were rated 26 percent very short, 40 percent short, 33 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 51 percent very short, 38 percent short, and 11 percent adequate.

County agent comments:

"Scattered showers continue to help revive pastures. Every cattle producer has seeded wheat and ryegrass in their old pastures and weather has helped this seed to germinate. Some are still buying hay to fit their winter needs." Steve Glass, Decatur County

"Soybean harvest has started, although most of the double-crop beans will be abandoned. Recent rains have greened things up a little, but more is needed to keep things growing." John Bartee, Montgomery County

"A little warmer weather returned for the first half of the week followed by more seasonable temperatures after a cold front moved through Thursday morning producing some measurable rainfall. However, most of the rain was less than 0.5 inch, doing very little to provide soil moisture. The last of the corn crop is being gathered, for the most part the harvest is through. Soybean harvest is slowly getting under way with yields of early planted/early maturing beans being poor. Later maturing beans appear to be doing better, wheat beans are not damaged by extreme temperatures and have a chance to produce normal yields The cotton crop has been treated with defoliant and is getting ready for harvest, which should begin this week. Producers reporting they are expecting yields to be 25 percent 30 percent lower than last year." Ed Burns, Franklin County

"Producers are baling corn and soybeans for livestock forage. Field crops have been hurt from dry weather and are not producing adequate grain yields. Weather continues to be extremely dry with no adequate rainfall. Pastures are extremely short and some cattle are looking unthrifty due to parasite load." Jerry Lamb, Rhea County


Kentucky received some much needed moisture during the week. The rain was too late for most crops but stabilized pasture conditions and conserved water supplies. Rain received varied widely ranging from no rain to 3.5 inches. Temperatures remained unseasonably warm with all areas of the state reaching 90 degrees.

Temperatures averaged 72 degrees, 8 degrees above normal. Eight of the last nine weeks have had above normal temperatures.

Most of the state remained dry with topsoil moisture rated 59 percent very short, 33 percent short, and 8 percent adequate as of Sunday, Sept. 30. Subsoil moisture was rated 75 percent very short, 20 percent short, and 5 percent adequate. There were 5.6 days suitable for fieldwork.

Main farm activities included shelling corn, cutting and housing tobacco, and soybean harvest.

The condition of housed tobacco was reported as 3 percent very poor, 7 percent poor. 33 percent fair, 49 percent good and 8 percent excellent. Three percent of tobacco had been stripped, 21 percent was ready for stripping and 76 percent was not ready for stripping. Nearly 93 percent of the burley had been cut by Sunday, Sept. 30, compared with 89 percent a year ago and the five-year average of 91 percent. Dark tobacco harvest was nearly complete with 95 percent cut. Last year 87 percent had been cut and the five- year average was 92 percent. Producers concerns include tobacco drying too fast and losing color.

Corn harvest continued at a rapid pace with 82 percent of the crop combined as of Sunday, Sept. 30. This is well ahead of the 50 percent harvested last year and the five year average of 59 percent. Reported yields vary widely depending of the amount and timing of rain received.

As of Sunday, Sept. 30, 19 percent of the soybeans had been harvested, well ahead of the 5 percent reported last year and the average of 11 percent. Fifty three percent of soybeans were mature, ahead of last year’s 39 percent, but slightly behind the five year average of 56 percent. Nearly 78 percent of the crop had dropped leaves compared with 69 percent a year ago and the five year average of 74 percent.

Soybean condition continued to decline and was rated 27 percent very poor, 26 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 17 percent good, and 4 percent excellent. Eighty percent of the crop was considered safe from frost. Small size of bean is a concern for some producers, especially with double crop beans.

Rain this past week slowed the decline in pasture condition, but pastures are rated in mostly very poor to poor condition.

Pastures were rated 53 percent very poor, 29 percent poor, 15 percent fair, and 3 percent good. A few reports indicate corn stocks are being cut for livestock forage as hay supplies remain in short supply. Wheat seeding was under way but many farmers are waiting for improved moisture for germination before planting fall grains.


Dry conditions persisted again this past week across the Commonwealth. Days suitable for work were 6.7. Soil moisture was generally very short. Pastures and hayfields continued to either brown or grow minimally. Livestock herds are continuing to be culled in hopes of relieving feed stress issues.

Corn harvest continued this past week with varying yields. Late soybeans are in need of precipitation to finish pod development while some early soybeans are now being harvested due to pods beginning to fall. Peanut digging has begun. Cotton harvesting is also under way.

Land preparation for winter crops has begun while some farmers have already planted barley and wheat.

Strawberry plants are being transplanted. Vegetable producers are cleaning out the fruit from summer crops. Other activities this past week included stalk shredding, lime application, soil sampling, soybean scouting and some vegetable harvesting.

Reporter comments by county:

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

Lee (Harold Jerrell) Cool nights and moderate to hot days continue. No rainfall measured the past week. Pastures continue to deteriorate and dust flows from the hills when animals walk across them.

Montgomery (Barry Robinson) Recent scattered showers late last week helped a few areas, but overall, there has been little rainfall. Good conditions for harvesting corn and tobacco, but without rainfall plantings of small grains and cover crops will struggle to germinate. Hay crop is in bad shape and won't recover before frost, plus winter survival is questionable.

Scott (Scott Jerrell) Received about 0.4 inches of rain in only some areas of the county last week. Silage chopping is well under way with most farmers experiencing 50 percent of normal yield. Cattle producers are still looking for hay and alternative feeds for the remaining cattle. One producer commented "we've culled everything that needed culling; now we're just closing our eyes, pointing, and putting them on the truck." Vegetable harvest is beginning to slow, with bell peppers and tomatoes still in abundance. Sorghum cane is being harvested, with higher than normal sugar content.

Wythe (Joseph W. Massey) September ended with another 2 inches of rainfall deficit for Wythe County. Cooler weather and morning dews have provided only a slight improvement on pasture conditions. Hay stores are being used up prematurely. Most producers are currently providing some hay for their livestock to supplement poor or exhausted pastures. Alternative feeds are getting hard to purchase because of low supplies and high demand for them. Large numbers of cattle are being marketed early, and many producers are reducing numbers in an attempt to conserve winter feeds. Water supplies are also becoming critical. Hay for sale in the area is extremely limited and low. Some producers are already looking to other states to have hay shipped in. Transportation cost for this is high, making the cost of hay extremely high for producers.

Westmoreland (Sam Johnson) Dry conditions continue in Westmoreland County. The corn harvest continued this week with more yields in the 30-70 bushel range. Late soybeans suffered again this week in the heat and dryness. Some field preparations were made for small grain planting. Some late vegetable and broccoli harvest continued.

Pittsylvania (Stephen Barts, Jamie Stowe) Another week with no rain coupled with declining crop conditions. Most tobacco producers are delaying harvest because of green tobacco. Most soybeans are currently being harvested for hay. Small grain producers are slowly beginning to plant, but delaying in hopes of rain. Pastures are looking greener but have not shown any additional growth. Cattle producers are culling and local markets are reporting record numbers of animals sold.

Highland (Rodney Leech) Drought continues with calves being sold early to relieve some pressure on pastures. There is no second cutting of hay because most is being used to supplement pastures. Some hay feeding is occurring in extreme cases.

Culpeper (Carl Stafford) Drought conditions worsen by the day with forage dependent livestock facing a shortage on pasture due to poor growth. Hay feeding is found in the worst areas. The corn grain harvest progresses quickly with dry down aiding this early start. Barley seeding is active and wheat is soon to follow but is also dependent on seed availability. Livestock drinking water could govern culling decisions without significant rainfall soon. The local government has initiated voluntary water use restrictions.

Chesapeake City (Watson Lawrence) Dry weather was broken by a heavy rain that varied from .5 to 2.0 inches. Overall, soil remains very dry as heavy rain was concentrated in a small area. Sixty percent of the strawberries have been planted. Corn harvest is complete and soybean harvest is under way. Soybeans are rapidly dropping leaves.

Virginia Beach (Cal Schiemann) Soybeans are really suffering. The double-crop plants are turning yellow and losing turgidness from lack of moisture. Corn harvest continues with average yields. Fall vegetable crops have failed after several plantings. Strawberry plants are being transplanted. Some strawberry plugs will follow next week. Most strawberry farmers are relying on trickle irrigation under the plastic to wet the plant bed plus overhead irrigation for the transplants.

Caroline (McGann Saphir) Extremely dry conditions continue. Pastures and hayfields are brown. Only alfalfa is still green, although it’s not growing. Farmers are finishing up corn harvest and planting wheat and some barley. Some early planted soybeans have been harvested due to the fact they are dropping seed. Farmers are scrambling to get into soybean fields before too many beans fall from their pods. Yields on full season soybeans have ranged from the upper 20s to the mid 40s per acre. Vegetable producers are cleaning out the fruit from summer crops like tomatoes, peppers and squash and harvesting pumpkins and winter squash. Next years crop of strawberries has been planted. Winter greens are up and growing. Anyone with livestock is looking for sources of winter feed and judiciously culling their herds.

Orange (Steve Hopkins) Fall seeded grass and small grain fields have poor stands because of the dry conditions. Farmers are starting to have water source problems for livestock with springs and small streams drying up. Livestock are being sold early this fall because of the dry conditions. Feed supplies will also be short for this winter with some farmers starting to feed livestock.

South Carolina

There was very little appreciable rainfall in South Carolina this past week. Conditions for the State’s crops have not looked very good in a long time due to the ongoing drought. Soil moisture declined for yet another week. The ratings for the week were 52 percent very short, 33 percent short, and 15 percent adequate. There was an average of 6.6 days that were suitable for field work.

The corn harvest was just about complete. Cotton harvest continued. The dry weather has reduced the need for pest controls.

More acreage has had defoliants applied. The cotton condition was 16 percent very poor, 35 percent poor, 34 percent fair, 14 percent good, and 1 percent excellent.

Yields of early harvested peanuts were spotty, and have varied from field to field. The condition was 4 percent very poor, 18 percent poor, 48 percent fair, 26 percent good, and 4 percent excellent.

Asian soybean rust has spread further into the state. Fields have tested positive for the disease from the Savannah River Area across the Low Country, and into Georgetown County. The lack of rain was also cause for concern for the crop. Some soybean acreage will not be harvested. The condition of the crop was 18 percent very poor, 34 percent poor, 35 percent fair, 12 percent good, and 1 percent excellent.

Sweet potatoes were being reported in mostly fair condition. The tobacco harvest has finally been completed. Stripped stalks were still being disked into the ground. Farmers were waiting on rain before planting winter wheat.

More livestock producers were searching for hay as they have been depleting their stocks. Over two-thirds of pastures were being reported in very poor or poor condition.

Apple picking continued. The crop still remained in very poor to fair condition.

Some winter grazings were planted in Coastal areas that had received rain the week before.

North Carolina

Since temperatures were above normal and rainfall was scarce this past week, North Carolina did not get any relief from the extreme drought. Less than 10 stations reported rainfall, with the most precipitation of 0.35 inches reported in Jefferson.

There were 6.6 days suitable for field work compared to 6.1 from the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 56 percent very short, 31 percent short, 13 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included the harvesting of corn for grain, corn for silage, cotton, apples, hay, burley tobacco, flue-cured tobacco, sweet potatoes, peanuts and sorghum. Other activities included the scouting for pest and disease problems.

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