Weather woes plague upper Southeast crops

Growers in South Carolina and Virginia watched crops stress from dry weather last week, while their counterparts in North Carolina feared high temperatures and lack of rainfall will take a heavy toll again this year.

Crop condition ratings in the upper Southeast took another hit during the week ending June 15, although the open weather did allow small grain harvest to advance at a rapid pace.

Here’s an overall look at conditions in the three states as reported by the various state USDA/NASS field offices.

North Carolina

North Carolina received between zero to 3.18 inches of rain throughout the week. Beech Mountain reported the most with 3.18. Above average temperatures and little rain accelerated small grain harvest across the state. There were some reports of growing concern about the future of the crops in the state if high temperatures and lack of rain continue.

There were 6.6 days suitable for field work, unchanged from the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels were rated at 23 percent very short, 56 percent short, 21 percent adequate and zero percent surplus.

Activities during the week included the planting of sorghum, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and burley tobacco and harvesting hay, Irish potatoes, barley, rye, oats, wheat and truck crops.

South Carolina

There were portions of South Carolina that received an inch or more of rain this past week, but unfortunately much of that rain missed large areas where field crops are grown. Parts of southern coastal counties had several inches of precipitation, greatly helping out there. Showers to the north of Charleston were mostly limited to within a very few miles of the ocean falling short of inland fields. There was also a wide stretch of the Ridge between Augusta and Columbia that had significant moisture also.

Overall, for most of the week, very warm temperatures dominated the state continuing to dry soils. State average soil moisture ratings dropped further, and were reported at 48 percent very short, 44 percent short, and 8 percent adequate.

Another week of dry sunny skies was the cause for an average of 6.4 days that were suitable for field work.

The corn crop was not looking good at all. Non-irrigated yields have been detrimentally impacted by the heat and dry weather. Rainfall at this point is too late for some early plantings. Later corn is questionable. Conditions fell sharply once again from the previous week. For the current week, 54 percent of the crop was reported in very poor or poor condition compared to 24 percent seven days ago.

Cotton was holding on for water. Cotton conditions dropped again as well, and were 3 percent very poor, 17 percent poor, 56 percent fair, 23 percent good, and 1 percent excellent.

Sunny days had farmers harvesting oats. Oat harvest was 21 percent ahead of the five-year average. Conditions were still looking mostly good.

Like most other crops, peanut conditions continued to decline. Conditions were 3 percent very poor, 18 percent poor, 52 percent fair, and 27 percent good.

Many farmers have been unable to plant double-cropped soybeans due to the lack of adequate soil moisture. Two weeks ago, 52 percent of soybeans were reported in good condition, now just 14 percent.

Sweet potato planting was ongoing. The crop still remained in mostly fair condition.

Tobacco conditions fell once again. Only two weeks ago, 80 percent of fields were in good condition, now only 34 percent. The heat and lack of moisture were causing some plants to top out low.

There were many winter wheat acres harvested this past week. Yields were looking very good, and are currently forecast at a state record of 54 bushels per acre.

Livestock conditions declined once again due to the continued heat. Pasture conditions dropped sharply from the previous week.

Conditions fell from 39 percent very poor, and poor last week to 62 percent poor and very poor for the current week.

Peach conditions did not change significantly from the prior week, as much of the Ridge area received a good amount of rain. However, there were also reports of scattered hail in some of those same areas.

Most vegetable crop conditions continued to fall due to heat and insufficient rain. A notable exception was watermelons that benefited from coastal showers.


Despite scattered showers this past week, most of Virginia continued to suffer from drought stress. High temperatures and windy weather contributed to the drought stress. Days suitable for field work were 6.0.

Good progress was made on the barley and wheat harvest. Although some wheat and barley was lodged due to heavy rains in May, yields still look promising.

Hay making continued during the week. The quality of hay not yet cut diminished due to the heat and lack of water.

Most of the full season soybeans are planted. The corn crop improved slightly with the recent light showers. However, twisting and drought stress has slowed growth.

Other farming activities included preparing fields for pumpkins and winter squash, side-dressing corn, spraying peanuts for weeds, and baling straw.


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

ACCOMACK (Jim Belote) “Full season soybean planting is almost complete. Wheat harvest just beginning. Should pick up greatly by end of next week. First yields very good and above average so far. Soybeans off to a good start. Potato crop potential excellent. Stringing of tomatoes. No harvest yet. Will start end of June or July 1. Scouting for insects and disease in all crops. Applying of fertilizer for soybeans and side-dressing of corn. Farmers very optimistic. Fertilizer prices at record levels. Some corn switched to beans because of high fertilizer prices. Some soybean fields will receive fertilizer below soil test recommendations because of extremely high prices according to some growers.”

MIDDLESEX (David Moore) “Most barley harvested and starting on wheat. Yields are good to very good and TW (test weight) is very good to excellent so far. Some wheat still has green stems especially where down due to past rain and wind. Full season soybean planting is about over and stands look good. Some postemergent applications of herbicides on soybeans beginning and double-crop soybeans beginning to be planted. Moisture in this area is still good to very good, but is drying out quickly. Corn has finally got its color back and looks good. Past very hot days and nights plus high humidity have really set corn off. Some fields have grown 2 feet in 10 days. Timely rains need to continue. Vegetables look good.”

HIGHLAND (Rodney Leech) “Mid-week showers helped keep things in good shape. Hot dry weather early in the week allowed some hay making with above average yields.”

ROANOKE (Sheri Dorn) “Higher than average temperatures all week (high 80s to mid 90s). Minimal rainfall (0.45 inches)”.

ROCKBRIDGE (Jon Repair) “High temperatures and very spotty showers are taking their toll. Corn growth is slowing and pasture and grass hay re-growth has virtually stopped. Hay not cut has turned very quickly in the last 3-5 days. Small grains have also been suffering with high temps and little rain. Very difficult to plant summer annuals at this time, the ground is so hard the planters are having problems getting deep enough into the soil for proper seed planting depth.”

LUNENBURG (Katie Baker) “The high temperatures and no rain of early June are starting to have an impact on second cutting of hay/alfalfa and corn crops. Pasture fields are beginning to show signs of drought stress by browning up while corn in some parts of the county is beginning to twist from the high heat and no rain.”

PITTSYLVANIA (Jamie Stowe, Stephen Barts) “Spotted thunderstorms late in the week brought much needed rain to crops around the county. Flue-cured tobacco is looking good. Most producers have finished lay-by. Wheat harvest is well under way but will be delayed a few days because of rain. Soybean planting is nearly complete. Corn appears well but some has begun to twist and show signs of stress. Producers have finished first hay cutting. High temperatures and low moisture have taken a toll on hay and pasture land.”

CAROLINE (McGann Saphir) “Grain producers are harvesting wheat and barley. The yields look good despite the fact there was much lodging due to excessive rains last month. Corn producers are finishing up top-dressing corn. Fields that needed to be replanted due to excessive moisture that drowned corn plants and led to root rot are mainly being top-dressed. Stands that were planted with no problems are well into growth, but are starting to show some signs of moisture stress, as conditions have been very dry since the end of the rains in May. Vegetable farmers are preparing fields for late vegetables like pumpkins and winter squash and staking tomatoes. Strawberry season, which was very good is pretty much over, and blueberries are coming in nicely. Farmers with irrigation are irrigating heavily due to the recent lack of rain.”

PRINCE GEORGE (Scott Reiter) “What a difference three weeks make! We went from wet, muddy planting conditions to dry ground that has stopped soybean planting. The high temperatures and winds have really dried out the soil surface over the last week. It has also dried wheat as harvest began this week. Several growers report moisture levels from 10.5 to 12 percent. Test weight has also been good — 60 to 63 pounds per bushel. Other activities included side-dressing corn, spraying peanuts for weeds, and baling straw. Corn has been stressed this week as many fields were noted as twisting during the heat of the day. Hay harvest is complete with average yields for the season.”

CHESAPEAKE CITY (Watson Lawrence) “Hot dry weather has made emerging crops of corn and soybeans suffer. Both crops had rolled in leaves and were struggling with immature root system in increasing dry soils. Wheat harvest is well under way with very good yields and test weights reported. Most double-cropped soybeans are being planted behind the combine with some soil moisture, but additional rain is needed to make a complete stand of soybeans. Corn continues to struggle with early May cold temperatures followed by dry soil conditions with excessive heat.”

MONTGOMERY (Barry Robinson) “Other than the half inch or so of rain we received from storms on Saturday, the soil moisture level is getting low, threatening recently planted crops such as corn and forages. Fruits could suffer if this dry spell continues.”

SCOTT (Scott Jerrell) “Weather conditions are causing concerns — little rainfall and extreme temperatures are stressing cool season grasses. A strong storm front that came through a portion of the county Monday did considerable damage to one vegetable producers field, wiping out zucchini, yellow squash, strawberries, green beans, peppers, and cucumbers.”

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