Southeast harvest conditions vary widely

While harvest operations were halted in many sections of Florida because of heavy rainfall last week, growers in the upper Southeast continued gathering their crops under dry conditions.

The shortage of forage for livestock continued to worsen across the area as more and more herds were being liquidated. Dry weather was also delaying seeding of winter wheat crops in many areas.

Here’s a look at the overall situation for the week ending Oct. 21 as reported by the various state USDA,NASS field offices.


Rain arrived late this past week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Average high temperatures were in the mid-70s to the upper 80s. Average lows ranged from the upper-40s to the mid-60s.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 33 percent very short, 31 percent short, 32 percent adequate, and 4 percent surplus.

The rainfall was a welcome sight for producers with small grains, pastures, and those waiting to dig peanuts. The rain hurt producers who had peanuts already dug, cotton ready for harvest, and those in the midst of harvesting. Some peanuts still need time to mature. Most cotton was ready to pick.

Peanut and cotton yields look good so far. Small grain and winter grazing planting slowed due to drought conditions. Pond and stream levels remained extremely low and there have been reports of shallow wells going dry.

Livestock producers continued feeding hay to livestock due to poor pasture conditions.

Worm infestations were reported in some pastures, although they will likely go untreated.

Other activities included cotton defoliation and harvesting, digging and combining peanuts, cutting and baling hay, and harvesting corn for grain. County Extension Agents reported an average of 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork.

District comments:

District 1 — Northwest

We continue to miss scattered showers, but some areas getting extremely light rains.

District 2 — North Central

Light rains on Thursday evening and Friday morning, but not enough to measure. Received scattered showers across the county; while helpful, producers are still struggling; water supplies for livestock are of particular concern. Rain showers near the end of the week helped but the drought conditions continue — received reports of shallow wells going dry — many livestock producers feeding hay due to short pastures-small grain planting delayed due to dry conditions. Dry! No help in sight.

District 3 – Northeast

Cloudy skies, cooler temperatures and widely scattered light showers held thing at status quo.

District 4 — West Central

No different; too dry to plant winter grazing and small grains; some hay being rolled still.

District 5 — Central

Light showers late in the week. Increased hay feeding to livestock due to declining pasture conditions. Small grain and winter grazing planting slowed due to drought conditions. Pond and stream levels continue to decline. We need rainfall. It's as simple as that. Recent rains and mild temperatures have helped pastures and late season harvest of hay. This was really needed in our area.

District 6 — East Central

Missed last rain opportunity, most received in the county was 0.5" but majority of the county got less than 0.25". Very dry, continued warmer than normal. Dryland peanuts going 2000-2400 pounds per acre, irrigated going 4,000-5,000 pounds per acre. Cotton harvest moving slowly with dryland making 1 bale per acre in some places but know of at least 800 acres being mown down for insurance. Irrigated cotton picking 750/800 pounds per acre with just a few farms going over 2 bales on irrigated land. Good weather for harvesting MG V, VI and VII soybeans and irrigated beans are going over 60 bushels per acre. Very dry, too dry to plant winter forage for cattle.

District 7 — Southwest

We received 2-4 inches of rain on Thursday and Friday. Rain will be good for pastures, last hay cutting and winter grazing. Some peanut yield data stated at 4,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds with 72 average grades. Rainfall 0.5 inches.

District 8 — South Central

Peanuts needed rainfall to dig in dry soil but peanuts already dug didn't need the rain and cotton did not need rainfall. Small grains will benefit. Hay cutting has ceased. Some late corn still has not matured enough to harvest. Peanut yield looking pretty good and cotton yields look good. Peanut prices going up per ton. A lot of interest in wheat and soybeans for next year. Some Mocis worms eating pastures. Probably won’t be sprayed. Rainfall is currently hampering harvesting. Much needed rain is falling today, only about one half inch so far. Peanuts are continuing to need time to mature. Cotton is finished and needs harvesting. There is a big phantom crop that has delayed harvest of poor dryland cotton.


Daily, scattered thunderstorms persisted throughout the week of Oct. 15-21. Rainfall varied from traces at Tampa to over 14 inches at Pensacola. Several areas across the extreme eastern Panhandle received between 12 to 16 inches of rainfall for the week. Nearly eight inches of rainfall fell at West Palm Beach, while Jay received over six inches. Areas receiving over four inches of rain included Marianna and Quincy with Tallahassee recording over three inches. Other localities received over one to two inches of rainfall.

Daytime highs were mostly in the 80s with some areas receiving temperatures in the 90s at least one day. Pleasant evening lows were in the 60s and 70s with a few stations recording at least one low in the 50s.

Some tornadoes along with torrential rains were reported in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. The weather negatively impacted some cotton, but it is too early to predict how much damage was sustained.

Recent rains helped loosen hardened soils allowing some growers to dig peanuts in Panhandle and northern Peninsula areas.

In Jefferson County, heavy rains delayed some peanut digging and potentially damaged the cotton crop slightly. In Washington County, peanut and cotton harvesting was underway.

Hay supplies continued to remain very short in the Panhandle areas.

Peanut condition was rated 25 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 37 percent good, and 6 percent excellent.

Moisture supplies across the state were mostly short to adequate with some spots of surplus supplies.

Rains interrupted some field work for vegetables across the state. Rains and wet fields delayed field activities around the Quincy area with some light harvesting underway. Tomato harvesting in central Peninsula localities was expected to begin this week.

The surge of white fly population had an severely adverse effect on all fall vegetable crops in Washington County. Okra harvesting continued in Dade County. Tomato, corn, and snap bean growers were almost finished preparing fields for plantings in Dade County.

Planting of cabbage and broccoli continues in St. Johns County. Producers marketed light supplies of cucumbers and squash in central and southern Peninsula areas. Harvesting of snap beans, eggplant, bell peppers was expected to begin late next week across northern to southern Peninsula localities.


The substantial accumulation of rainfall totaled at many weather stations during the past week, did very little to alleviate the worsening drought conditions experienced by most of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor categorized 73.0 percent of Alabama as suffering from exceptional drought conditions compared to 58.8 percent a week ago, and none at the start of the calendar year.

Donald Mann in the Jackson County FSA office stated that most of the county missed the rain again, with the majority of areas only receiving 0.25 inches or less.

Temperatures for the past week remained above average, reaching as much 12 degrees warmer than normal in Pinson for this time of year. Daytime highs ranged from 83 degrees in Sand Mountain and Bridgeport to a sweltering 92 degrees in Montgomery.

Overnight lows varied from a chilly 40 degrees in Russellville to 53 degrees in Headland. All weather stations reported receiving some precipitation during the past week. However, the total rainfall differed drastically not only from the northern to southern areas of the state, but also within Districts. Thorsby saw the lowest rainfall at 0.06 inches over a two-day period, while Geneva received a torrential 7.00 inches in four days.

The state’s soybean harvest moved forward at a pace slower than last year, but ahead of the five-year average. Mr. Mann added that most soybean crops in Jackson County were worse than expected, with many farms realizing yields that ranged from 5 to 10 bushels per acre.

In spite of the considerable amounts of rain that fell across the state, cotton harvest leapt forward by 14 percent, with the most progress taking place in Districts 10, 20, 30, and 40. Mr. Mann reported that cotton yields in Jackson County had ranged from as low as 150 to as high as 800 pounds per acre, with most yields between 300 to 500 pounds per acre.

Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension agent, noted that producers in the county were busy picking “sorry cotton.”

Covington County producers still had a number of cotton fields that had not been defoliated or picked.

Russell C. Parrish, Jr., Crenshaw County Extension Agent, stated that most of the cotton in the county was about ready for picking, but was no more than knee high.

Peanut harvest progressed well ahead of last year, but 21 percent behind the five-year average. Mr. Parrish also indicated that some peanuts in Crenshaw County had been plowed up and left for the insurance adjusters to inspect. A good majority of these peanut stands lacked development, only put on fruit near the main root of the plant, and were full of empty peanut hulls.

Pastures deteriorated as reporters rated a larger percentage in very poor condition during the past week. More water sources were drying up, and practically all livestock producers were feeding what hay and roughage supplies remained.

Mr. Mann mentioned that Jackson County producers were waiting for soil moisture levels to increase before sowing their winter wheat crop. Alabama’s livestock were reported in mostly very poor or poor condition, as the available feedstuffs were too scarce to warrant any improvement in body condition scores.


Widespread showers across the state brought harvest to a standstill toward the end of last week. Good progress, however, was made in all crops prior to the showers. Cotton harvest continued to out-pace the 5-year average by three weeks with over 75 percent of the acreage completed.

In addition, soybean harvest was almost two weeks ahead of normal. Moisture also aided the seeding of the 2008 winter wheat crop. A third of the acreage had been seeded, on-pace with last year and the 5-year average.

Burley tobacco stripping has been slow, as producers continued to wait for more moisture to bring their crop into case. Other activities during the week included renovating pastures and hauling feed and water to livestock.

There were 5 days considered suitable for field work. Topsoil moisture levels were rated 31 percent very short, 29 percent short, 38 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 53 percent very short, 32 percent short, and 15 percent adequate.

Temperatures averaged one to three degrees above normal across the State.

Rainfall across Middle and East Tennessee last week was around one half inch below normal, while West Tennessee saw rainfall amounts around one half inch above normal.

County Agent Comments

"Rainfall this past week makes the opportunity for wheat planting into moist soil a better condition and it is also now into the proper planting window. Remaining soybeans are a challenge for harvest as they are generally mature but the plants are still green. The remaining cotton has green re-growth and does not look good after harvest. Farmers are doing the best they can." Jerry Parker, Lauderdale County

"Producers made some progress last weekend and early this week on soybean and cotton harvest, as well as wheat seeding. Rainfall occurred early, mid and late week, to stop soybean harvest and wheat seeding. The improved soil moisture conditions have helped to bring earlier seeded wheat up to a stand, as well as pastures that have been seeded." Jeff Lannom, Weakley County

"Beef producers continued to move and liquidate herds due to no pasture, water or hay." David Qualls, Lincoln County

"Corn harvest is coming to a close with widely variable yields ranging from 40 to 120 bushels per acre. Wheat is not germinating well due to hot and dry conditions - many producers are waiting on moisture to plant. Soybeans are turning color and losing leaves without ripening at all or ripening at a highly variable rate, and some are dropping pods before they can be harvested. Soybeans after wheat are a total loss in most cases. Hay is in very short supply with many producers hauling it in from out of state and selling cows. Some rain was received on Wednesday night and Friday morning but need much more to bring any real relief from the drought. Burley tobacco is being stripped with producers reporting several quality problems due to extremely dry and hot curing conditions. Late tomatoes on irrigated land are bringing good prices. All streams, ponds, rivers and lakes are at record low levels, if they have water in them at all." Mannie Bedwell, Hamblen County

"Area received 0.20 to 0.40 inches of rain on Thursday; however, the drought conditions continue to worsen. Available livestock water is becoming more of a problem than hay and pasture with pastures grazed into the ground and hay in very short supply. Producers are measuring hay yields on late cuttings in acres per bale rather than bales per acre. Producers are taking advantage of the dry conditions to harvest soybeans where yields are quite variable from very poor to moderate. Very little fall seeding has been completed." Bob Sliger, Monroe County

South Carolina

A storm front that was predicted to bring a good bit of precipitation late last week, ended up yielding not much more than clouds, and a few sprinkles for most of our state’s farmers. Long range weather forecasts call for above normal temperatures, and below normal rainfall providing little relief in sight to ease South Carolina’s drought.

Soil ratings for the week were 58 percent very short, 35 percent short, and 7 percent adequate. There was a statewide average of 6.5 days that were suitable for field work.

Cotton harvest continued in most areas of the State that remained dry. There was an increasing number of reports of cotton acreage that will not be harvested due to poor yields. The cotton condition was 24 percent very poor, 29 percent poor, 34 percent fair, and 13 percent good.

Some coastal peanut yields are not looking too bad. The condition was 6 percent very poor, 21 percent poor, 48 percent fair, and 25 percent good.

There are soybean fields that have not seen any rain since early September. More acreage is being cut for hay due to the lack of potential yield for grain. Other areas are reporting yields that are fair to good with early maturing varieties. The condition of the crop was 26 percent very poor, 25 percent poor, 37 percent fair, and 12 percent good. High winter wheat prices have had farmers hoping to plant some small grains, but there is little chance of that happening without some moisture.

Livestock were still being sold, as they have been since mid-summer, due to insufficient hay stocks to feed cattle through the winter. Pasture conditions improved slightly, as some areas received rain. However, most pastures are not producing any forage for livestock at this point.

North Carolina

Abnormally high temperatures and little rainfall dominated the week again in North Carolina. All reporting station's average temperatures were above normal by at least 4 degrees and at most by 11 degrees. Most stations reported having some rain with Greensboro reporting the largest at 1.11 inches.

There were 6.4 days suitable for field work compared to 6.7 from the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 70 percent very short, 28 percent short, 2 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus. Activities during the week included the harvesting of cotton, apples, flue-cured tobacco, sweet potatoes, peanuts and sorghum. Other activities included the scouting for pest and disease problems.


Dry conditions persist another week despite some areas receiving insignificant showers. Days suitable for work were 6.5. Topsoil moisture was generally very short. Livestock producers continue to heavily cull herds due to forage and water shortages.

Hay stocks are dwindling and water levels have dropped significantly causing wells and other natural water sources to dry. A few areas are still harvesting corn. The soybean harvest continues with varying yields. Most of the state’s peanuts have been dug and the harvest is coming to a close. The cotton harvest is in full swing. Some producers have decided to continue small grain planting with the hope of precipitation soon.

Other activities this week include lime spreading, soil sampling, land preparation for small grain planting, and equipment repair and maintenance.


Farmers received some much needed rain last week. Rainfall was above normal for the first time in the last 12 weeks, totaling 1.10 inches statewide. This was .27 inches above normal. Topsoil moisture was rated 49 percent very short, 32 percent short, 18 percent adequate, 1 percent surplus as of Sunday, October 21. Subsoil moisture was rated 64 percent very short, 29 percent short, and 7 percent adequate.

Temperatures in the Commonwealth climbed an average of 5 degrees from the previous week, averaging 67 degrees, which was 10 degrees above normal. There were 5.3 days suitable for fieldwork. Main farm activities included seeding wheat, and harvesting soybeans.

The condition of housed tobacco was reported as 3 percent very poor, 16 percent poor, 27 percent fair, 43 percent good and 11 percent excellent. Eighteen percent of tobacco had been stripped compared to 15 percent last year and equal to the five year average. Many farmers report good weights on their tobacco.

The corn harvest was nearly complete with 97 percent of the crop combined as of Sunday, Oct. 21. This continued well ahead of the 84 percent harvested last year and the five year average of 88 percent.

As of Sunday, Oct. 21, 69 percent of the soybeans had been harvested, well ahead of the 38 percent reported last year and the average of 47 percent. Some farmers report they will not harvest their beans due to low yields.

Farmers reported they have seeded more than half of their winter wheat. As of Sunday, Oct. 21, 58 percent of wheat was seeded, ahead of 46 percent last year and 46 percent for the five year average.

Pasture condition improved slightly compared to the previous week with 49 percent very poor, 31 percent poor, 18 percent fair, and 2 percent good.

Eighty-four percent of producers reported they will not have an adequate supply of hay for this winters feeding.

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