Southeast crops need soaking rain

The general cropping situation around the Southeast got even worse during the week ended May 20, as scattered showers failed to alleviate the dry conditions.

Cotton and peanut planting was halted in some cases due to dry soils, while corn began twisting in the afternoon heat.

Early wheat harvest was under way with some favorable yields reported.

Here’s a look at how the week went across the area:


A disaster declaration was made by the United States Secretary of Agriculture for 55 Alabama counties that were affected by the Easter weekend freeze.

Crops and pastures showed signs of stress, as Alabama fields went another week with no significant rainfall.

Shane Seay in the Limestone County FSA office stated that scattered showers were received in some areas, but overall, the county has not accumulated a noteworthy amount of moisture to date.

Temperatures for the week ending May 20 were mostly below average, with the week’s daytime high of 94 degrees recorded in Tuscaloosa and the week’s overnight low of 38 degrees recorded in Hamilton.

Scattered showers were seen across the state, with the biggest rainfall total of 1.5 inches accumulated in Geneva.

While the majority of the state’s winter wheat remained in fair to excellent condition, a slightly larger percentage of the crop was reported in very poor or poor condition due to a combination of the hot, dry weather and a high level of barley yellow dwarf virus infection.

Alabama’s corn crop also showed a slight increase in the amount of the crop reported in very poor or poor condition. As the number of days without a soaking rain continued to mount, more of the crop was twisting up in the afternoons.

Cotton and peanut planting continued even though the ground’s moisture was reported as drier this past week, but both crop’s progress remained behind last year and the five- year average.

Some producers chose to dust in their crops, hanging their hopes on receiving a good amount of rain in the coming week.

Peach harvest in central Alabama started in early varieties such as Springcrest, Springprince, Queencrest and Sunbrite. The fruit, which are normally small, are even smaller in most cases due to the extreme weather conditions experienced this year.

Bobby Boozer, research horticulturist at the Chilton Research and Extension Center, reported that “catfacing” and “gumming” caused by freeze damage on the fruit’s surface and into the flesh tissue have begun to show up in orchards hit by the Easter weekend freeze.

Disease pressure remained low.

Insect pressure from spider mites is expected to increase by the end of the month, while plum curculio emergence is expected in the next few days.

James Miles, regional Extension agent in southwest Alabama, indicated that the fruit and vegetable crops around Mobile look good. Most crops are expected to be ripe and ready for harvest early despite the cool April nights.

However, most producers who utilized succession planting and expected to have two separate growth stages have crops that are now at the same growth stage due to cool overnight temperatures early in the season.

Forage production has suffered throughout the state. Many cattlemen have experienced shortages of pasture forage, and hay production has been minimal so far this year.

Darrell Rankins, Extension cattle specialist at Auburn University, added that cattle numbers being sold through weekly auction markets increased slightly, indicating that some herd liquidation has already begun.

Many producers have considered weaning calves earlier and at a lighter weight to alleviate some stress on brood cows.

T. H. Gregg mentioned that some producers in Etowah County are busy harvesting what hay is available.

Jimmy Smitherman, Montgomery County Extension agent, noted that hay was in short supply and was already being fed.


Most areas across the state received minimal rain during the week of May 14 through 21 with ample rains needed. The lack of precipitation coupled with prolonged drought conditions sparked more wild fires across the Peninsula.

The smoke from these fires closed roads due to poor visibility and lowered air quality over most of the state.

As of Sunday evening, active fires totaled 185 and covered 189,794 acres according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Forestry.

Arcadia, Kenansville, Marianna, and West Palm Beach reported over an inch of precipitation.

Fort Lauderdale received the most rainfall with nearly three inches of rain for the week. All other areas received minimal traces of rain for the week.

Temperatures at the major stations hovered around normal to two degrees below normal in Jacksonville.

Daytime highs were in 80s with several stations reporting at least one high in the 90s. Pleasant evening lows were in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Very dry soils continue to delay plantings of field crops in the Panhandle as well as the northern Peninsula areas.

Planting of cotton and peanuts has been slowed by dry weather conditions in Santa Rosa County with some cotton up.

Peanut planting is 45 percent completed compared to last year’s 29 percent by this date and the five-year average planting of 50 percent.

Wheat harvest has begun with good yields reported in Santa Rosa County.

Corn fields in the northwestern Panhandle showed stress from the lack of moisture with rains desperately needed. In Jackson County, corn is beginning to wilt.

Several cotton fields have not been planted as growers are waiting until they receive adequate rain.

The hay shortage is becoming critical in several areas across the state.

Topsoil moisture supplies are rated mostly very short to short with a few pockets of adequate supplies in the Panhandle and the northern Peninsula.

Soil moisture supplies throughout areas in the central and southern Peninsula recorded mostly very short to short supplies.

Dade County reported short to adequate soil moisture supplies.

Warm and mostly clear weather permitted vegetable harvesting to continue on schedule with producers supplying the Memorial Day demand.

Tomato picking is slowing seasonally over the southern Peninsula.

In Washington County, dryland vegetable growth is suffering with vegetable harvest about two to three weeks behind schedule. Growers marketed snap beans, blueberries, cantaloupes, celery, sweet corn, eggplant, okra, peppers, radishes, strawberries, and watermelons.

In the Panhandle and northern areas, pasture condition is mostly very poor. Most cattlemen are feeding supplemental hay and grain. The hay shortage is becoming critical.

Some pastures have nothing to graze.

The dry weather continues to cause pasture overgrazing. Rotated pasture normally cut for hay this time of year is also overgrazed and spring hay production is down.

Many producers are beginning to wean early or sell off some animals to decrease their stocking rate. Hay farmers are experiencing high fertilizer costs with little chance to recover input costs.

In the central areas, pasture condition is mostly fair. Rainfall last week in parts of Osceola and Polk counties greened up some pasture. In the southwest areas, pasture condition is mostly very poor.

Statewide, cattle condition ranges from very poor to good with most in fair condition.

Temperatures in citrus producing areas have been in the mid to high 80s most days, with cool nights in the low 60s.

A slow moving front during the week produced scattered showers in most citrus-producing localities. Regularly monitored stations recorded between one tenth and one half of an inch.

Other isolated local recordings in the center of the state and in the southwest were at about an inch and a half. Rainfall received this time of year is very beneficial to the trees to help them hold next year’s crop.

Water restrictions are in place in southwest areas and some areas along the east coast are under a burn ban.

Valencia harvest continues to be strong with weekly amounts between four and five million boxes. Three processors have finished running oranges for the season; five more are planning on finishing by mid-May and three are planning to run until the middle to the end of June.

Grapefruit harvest is almost complete for both fresh and processing. Most packinghouses will finish packing grapefruit by the end of May with only a few packing oranges into June or later with storage fruit.

Because of the drought, citrus growers across the state have increased irrigation amounts to keep their groves watered.

Some of the field practices being observed are mowing, removing of dead trees, and hedging and topping.


Temperatures were moderate with little rain for the week ending May 20, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office.

Average highs were in the upper 70s and lower 80s. Lows ranged from the upper 40s to the lower 60's.

Rainfall averaged just 0.07 inches. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 66 percent very short, 27 percent short, 7 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.

The drought continued to have a detrimental impact on agriculture.

Crop, pasture, and hayfield conditions declined. Pond and stream levels continued to drop. Planting of cotton and peanuts has nearly ceased because of a lack of soil moisture. Row crops were being dusted in to meet insurance obligations.

Farmers were irrigating as much as possible.

Corn that survived the Easter freeze is stunted and skippy in fields that weren't replanted. There were reports of chinch bugs in dryland corn and millet and cutworms, splitworms, and budworms in tobacco.

Livestock producers were selling off cattle due to the lack of hay and grazing. Other activities included small grain harvest and cutting hay.

County Extension agents reported an average of 6.4 days suitable for fieldwork.


Tennessee farmers made excellent progress planting cotton last week with over 90 percent of the state's acreage now in the ground, a pace over a week ahead of normal.

Producers were able to work almost the entire week without being hampered by showers. Many areas, however, are beginning to need a general rain.

Planting of the 2007 corn crop is essentially over, except for some spot planting. By week's end, nearly the entire corn crop had emerged and was rated in mostly good-to-fair condition.

Soybean planting continued its rapid progress with nearly half the acreage already planted compared to just 33 percent a year earlier.

About a third of the wheat crop was turning color, slightly ahead of normal.

The first cutting of hay neared the halfway point with reports of diminished yields so far.

Tobacco growers continued their transplanting efforts and more than doubled the progress of a week ago.

Other farm activities included side-dressing corn and post-emergence herbicide applications.

There were 6 days considered suitable for fieldwork last week.

As of Friday, May 18, topsoil moisture levels were rated 10 percent very short, 42 percent short, 47 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

Subsoil moisture levels were rated 15 percent very short, 43 percent short, and 42 percent adequate.

Temperatures for the week averaged 3 to 4 degrees below normal across the state. Rainfall was also below normal for the entire state.

County agent comments:

"Mid-week showers allowed soybean planting to advance in the county. However, there are still dry areas. Cotton has faced very little adversity and the older crop is beginning to shine across the fields. Corn is picking up fertilizer and beginning to grow. With all that has happened since Easter, we still have good potential if moisture will continue to be available." Jerry Parker, Lauderdale County

"After the damage to wheat and corn crops, we needed the cotton crop to go in as smoothly as possible. It has, and growing conditions have been ideal to get good stands with very little disease pressure. We seem to get just enough rain to get us by for a few days, but we are behind for the year. Crop demand for water will soon increase, and if we don't receive large amounts of rainfall, all of our crops will suffer." Tracey Sullivan, Haywood County

"Recent rains have helped pasture and hay conditions. First reports of grass hay yields are about two thirds of normal spring harvest. Wheat crop that survived has improved; however, many fields scouted have powdery mildew present. Tobacco transplant production has had very few problems this spring. A few cases of bacterial stalk rot and collar rot seen in the past week." Paul Hart, Robertson County

"We are dry in 90 percent of the county, and it's beginning to affect corn. Our hay crop is the worst I've seen in 30 years. Pastures are getting critical, and farmers are talking about selling cows." Larry Moorehead, Moore County

"Good hay weather, but lack of rain is hurting everyone else. Nurserymen busy with insurance adjustors due to April freeze. Soybeans are being planted and some early corn being sprayed. Some parts of the county got rain last weekend, but we need a good general rain badly." J. Dale Beaty, Warren County

North Carolina

Dry conditions continue to dominate North Carolina with the coastal region receiving some much needed rain.

The average temperatures throughout the state were well below normal, ranging from 54 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit.

There were 6 days suitable for field work this past week compared to the 5.7 days from the previous week.

Statewide, soil moisture levels are rated at 14 percent very short, 40 percent short, 43 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included the planting of cotton, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, sweetpotatoes, and tobacco.

First cutting of hay and truck crop harvest continue to progress.

South Carolina

With the exception of the Charleston area, much of the coastline of South Carolina received adequate precipitation totaling to an inch or more.

However, in the reminder of the state, this was not the situation, and rainfall was hard to find. The lack of rain, coupled with windy days, continue to remove soil moisture.

Soils were 24 percent very short, 43 percent short, and 33 percent adequate.

Because of the warm, sunny weather, average days suitable for fieldwork were 6.2 for the week.

Corn, including the fields that were replanted, is nearly all emerged. Corn conditions, like many field crops, declined from the dry weather since last week.

Cotton and peanut planting is behind, and some farmers are waiting because of the dry soils.

Soybean planting is ongoing, and is now 27 percent complete. The tobacco crop is finally all in the ground. Oats are finished heading with 66 percent turning color, and 24 percent ripe.

Winter wheat is nearly all headed, and is 50 percent turning color with 12 percent ripe.

Livestock conditions are fair to good this week with some livestock finding very little grazing. Pasture conditions declined due to the lack of moisture.

Vegetable planting is nearly complete. Peaches are unchanged at 86 percent very poor, 7 percent poor and 7 percent fair. Apple conditions are now 60 percent very poor, 20 percent poor and 20 percent fair.


Recent showers were welcomed in the Commonwealth of Virginia during the week ending May 20, 2007. Days suitable for field work were 5.6.

Topsoil moisture was adequate. Cooler temperatures at night slowed down some crops and pasture growth.

Small grains were in fair to good condition.

Some farmers were planting full season soybeans and finishing up corn planting.

Vegetable farmers were readying their plant beds and transplanting summer vegetables. Strawberry picking is in full swing with average yields and good quality.

Other farm activities included: fence and barn repairs, shearing sheep, calf processing, liming and fertilizing and hay making.

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