Winter wheat harvest under way

Harvest of the large Southeast winter wheat crop began last week with reports of good to excellent yields coming in. However, there were also reports of storm damage to some crops in Alabama and Georgia.

Otherwise, planting of the area’s row crops made good progress in most sections.

Here’s how the situation unfolded during the week ending May 25 as reported by the various state USDA/NASS field offices.


The lingering hydrological drought conditions that plagued the state last year were further reduced during the past couple of weeks thanks to several strong storm systems.

Extreme drought conditions were present in all of Cleburne, and parts of Blount, Calhoun, Clay, Etowah, Jefferson, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, and Talladega Counties, representing only 6.7 percent of Alabama compared to 58.7 percent one year ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released for May 20, 2008.

Temperatures during the past week varied from a few degrees below to as many as 6 degrees above normal for this time of year. Daytime highs ranged from 84 degrees in Sand Mountain to a hot 93 degrees in Dothan. Overnight lows varied from a cool 47 degrees in Bridgeport to 64 degrees in Thomasville, Headland, and Dothan.

Rainfall was scattered across the state, with total accumulations ranging from 0.01 inches in Huntsville to 1.77 inches in Thomasville. Several weather stations in north-central, south-central, and southeastern Alabama remained dry.

Thomas D. Atkinson, county executive director in the Madison County FSA office, indicated that some areas within the county were already beginning to become dry even after the frequent rainfall that was received during the previous weeks.

Winter wheat harvest was under way in some areas across the state with nearly 90 percent of the crop reported in good to excellent condition. Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent located in Autauga County, stated that producers harvested the first of the area’s wheat crop over the weekend. Yield estimates were good, but not as strong as those realized last year.

Alex Brand, county executive director in the Wilcox County FSA office, mentioned that producers anticipated wheat harvest to begin soon.

The majority of the state’s corn remained in good to excellent condition during the past week. Nevertheless, the corn crop in some regions showed a slight decline in condition. Thomas Atkinson noted that the late-planted corn in Madison County was under some stress and needed a soaking rain.

Alex Brand added that cotton farmers continued planting.

Soybeans in some parts of Wilcox County were also planted, but the majority of the beans would be planted later in the crop season.

Doyle Barnes, county executive director in the Covington County FSA office, reported that cotton and peanut planting was progressing well. Peanut planting increased dramatically during the past week, but remained behind the progress of last year and the five-year average. The large jump in progress was attributed to producers taking advantage of the soil moisture currently available. However, the area needed more moisture for producers to continue planting, and for the crops to emerge to a good stand.

Pasture conditions deteriorated during the past week, as rainfall was scarce and temperatures were on the rise. The first hay harvest moved forward steadily, in spite of light rain showers in some areas.

Daniel S. Miller, county Extension coordinator for DeKalb County, stated that hay harvest was slow because frequent, low quantity rains and cool night temperatures made it difficult to cure the crop.

T. H. Gregg, regional Extension agent located in Etowah County, added that producers in the area were cutting their hay later this year than in years past due to recent weather conditions.

Henry Dorough, regional Extension agent located in Talladega County, indicated that haying operations in the area pressed on despite scattered rainfall during the past week.

Alabama’s livestock were reported in mostly good to excellent condition.


Hot, humid, and windy conditions continued. Most areas received above a half of an inch of rain. DeSoto, Franklin, St. Lucie, and Hardee counties received 2.40, 2.52, 2.47, and 2.49 inches, respectively. The most precipitation fell in Broward and Collier counties; each received 3.05 and 5.17 inches, respectively.

Daytime highs were in the high 80s and 90s with lows in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Major cities averaged highs in the 80s and 90s; lows in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Peanut planting continued with 76 percent completed compared to 49 percent last year. Harvest of wheat and other small grains continued in Jackson and Santa Rosa counties with good yields reported on irrigated fields. Potato harvest continued throughout the tri-county areas. St. Johns County potato growers reported around 50 percent of the fields dug.

Planting of cotton and peanuts continued in Escambia County.

Topsoil moisture was mostly short across the state and subsoil moisture was reported as adequate.

Vegetable crop conditions were good last week. Florida City continued to harvest and pack okra. Fort Myers producers reported better quantity and quality of watermelons for the week ending on May 25. Squash harvest continued throughout Gadsden County and pepper harvest was reported to begin in the next couple of weeks.

Growers harvested cantaloupe in the St. Johns County area. Starke County producers finished their strawberry harvest. Suwannee Valley continued harvesting green beans, cucumbers, and organic crops. Wauchula reported good progress on the completion of their eggplant harvest. Other vegetables marketed throughout the week were sweet corn, eggplant, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes.

The state pasture condition improved in general last week, but drought still limited grass growth. In the Panhandle and northern areas, pasture condition was very poor to good, with most in fair condition.

The cattle condition was poor to good with most in good condition. Cattle were being fed supplemental hay in several areas as pasture has not recovered yet. In central areas, pasture condition was very poor to good with most in poor condition. The cattle condition was very poor to good.

In the southwestern areas, pasture was poor to good with most in fair condition. Pastures improved following showers the past week.

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

Citrus producing areas experienced normal average temperatures this past week with lows in the mid-60s at night and reaching the mid to low 90s during the day. All areas received much needed rainfall from widely scattered thunderstorms that moved across the state. Amounts ranged from traces of rain in the Hillsborough area to over five inches recorded at Immokalee. Interior areas received up to two inches in some areas, but very little in others. This was the first significant rainfall recorded since early April.

Irrigation continued where needed to maintain tree vigor. Most trees look good with heavy foliage and healthy new fruit. Hedging and topping continued into the latter part of the citrus season. Other activities in citrus groves included irrigating, spraying, mowing, and brush removal.

Growers were combating greening by removing trees and attempted to control the psyllids with pesticides.

Valencia processing was still running around the six million box level weekly, with adequate availability of fruit remaining to continue this level into June. Some processing plants planned to run Valencia oranges into the second week of July. Large quantities of grapefruit utilization were over, but small amounts were to trickle in for several more weeks.

Honey tangerine harvest was nearing completion with packinghouses closing for the season.


Stormy weather brought some damage to farmers early in the past week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Wind and hail damage was reported in corn, wheat, and oats.

Daily average high temperatures were in the lower to upper-80s. Average lows were in the 60s most of week. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 12 percent very short, 35 percent short, 49 percent adequate, and 4 percent surplus.

Pasture and hayfield conditions continue to improve due to some rains. The occasional rain has kept crop conditions from worsening. Hay producers continued to cut hay when the weather allows. Some cotton and peanuts were replanted due to poor stands.

Other activities included irrigating pastures.

County Extension agents reported an average of 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork.


District 1 — Northwest

“We are still receiving occasional rains weekly, a very big difference compared to this time last year. But the soil moisture is still very low. After not receiving a shower in several days, it starts to show. I am afraid this summer may get rough again when it turns hot and dry. Farmers in the south end of the county are assessing hail damage to corn, wheat, and ryegrass. Most damage occurred to corn (most of it should recover) and it primarily just laid the wheat and ryegrass down.”

District 2 — North Central

“Baling fescue hay was a major activity this past week. Rain showers late in the week supplied needed moisture.”

District 4 — West Central


District 5 — Central

“Heavy storms early in the week in many parts of the county. Lot's of wind and hail damage to trees, structures and small grains. Pasture and hayfield conditions continue to improve due to rains. Some hay producers cutting hay when the weather allows. Scattered showers have kept crop conditions from worsening, but have not improved anything. We have received around 2 inches of rainfall in the past seven days. It has definitely had a positive impact on our crops. Many of our farmers have actually been able to conduct their planting successfully.”

District 6 — East Central

“Two violent weather episodes in the last 12 days have left oats and wheat blown down and a good bit of hail damage on wheat and corn. Corn will get over it, wheat on the ground will take a "hit" on yield and test weight and moisture deductions. Many pivots overturned in the fields. Don't need any more rough weather! Even though they've been rough, frequent rains have allowed planting to continue without stopping. Wheat will be late harvested getting into second week of June which could affect acres intended for peanuts. Probably some switching to soybeans or short-season cotton. Some hail damage as well as wind. Having to replant some cotton because of poor stand. Wind, cool temperatures.”

District 7 – Southwest

“Cotton seedling disease is bad. It can be weather related.”

District 8 — South Central

“Dry, dry, dry. Looks like a good chance of rain today. TSWV in tobacco is generally less than 1percent so far. Some peanut replanting due to poor stands. Cotton looks good. Some problems in tobacco with insects such as grasshoppers, budworms and hornworms. Some are irrigating pastures and hayfields. Irrigation of other crops as needed. Soybeans look good. Wrapping up planting of cotton and peanuts. Side-dressing tobacco with fertilizer and applying fungicide for black shank. Thrips pressure is bad on cotton, peanuts and other crops. Garden beans and peas are getting hit hard by thrips. Need to be harvesting wheat. It is ready!”


Tennessee cotton farmers made excellent progress planting last week with almost three-fourths of the state's acreage now in the ground, about 4 days behind the normal pace.

Producers were able to work almost the entire week without being hampered by showers. Warm temperatures and ample sunshine last week also allowed soybean and hay producers to make good progress with their field activities.

Planting of the 2008 corn crop was essentially completed, except for some spot planting or re-planting. Corn and soybeans have started to emerge with good stands reported. Hay was rated in mostly good condition with harvest now on schedule with the 5-year average.

Cattle producers continued applying controls for face flies.

Other activities last week included spraying nursery plants and transplanting tobacco.

There were 6 days considered suitable for fieldwork last week. As of Friday, topsoil moisture levels were rated 1 percent very short, 14 percent short, 77 percent adequate, and 8 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 5 percent very short, 14 percent short, 74 percent adequate, and 7 percent surplus. Temperatures across the state averaged near to slightly above normal, while precipitation averaged half to one inch below normal.


"This week has been a good one. We had a few north county showers yesterday, but not enough to slow down progress. Farmers are getting a lot of soybean and cottonseed in the ground. They are also spraying over corn. Almost, if not, all hay is on the ground or being baled. Wheat is shaping up nicely as well; we are expecting some good yields on fields that didn't lose early on." James Griffin, Lauderdale County

"Corn planting will be done this week. Soybeans are starting to get planted, and hay cutting is in full swing. Hay yields look very good and will be above normal. Costs will be very high, if you plan to buy hay. Looks like more people are planting some type of gardens this spring, because we are having more calls than normal about recommendations for gardens and fruit sets look good." Steve Glass, Decatur County

"Excellent progress has been made this week with getting late corn planted and dark tobacco set. Hay cutting has greatly progressed as we have finally had a few days without rain (which seems odd after last year)." Ronnie Barron, Cheatham County

"The county finally got some consistent weather to harvest hay. Numerous acres were being harvested this week. We have had some reports of wheat damaged by armyworms and some cutworm damage in corn." Kevin Rose, Giles County

"The wheat crop is beginning to turn with about 40 percent of the crop showing signs of ripening. The crop is in very good condition and yield potential is high. Producers are hoping for good harvest weather to get this crop out in a timely manner to plant back soybeans. Warmer temperatures have allowed the corn crop to nearly double in height with the bulk of the crop at the 5-6 leaf stage. Cooler temps have slowed progress and the crop is about a week to 10 days behind normal. Most producers have finished herbicide and nitrogen applications. Several soybean producers reported finishing up planting early beans this week; warmer soil temperatures should allow for rapid germination. Soil temperatures have finally gotten to levels to allow the cotton crop to emerge and begin a little growth. Hay producers have had the best week yet for harvesting hay, about half the crop is cut with yields ranging from excellent to about half of normal." Ed Burns, Franklin County


Below normal precipitation and temperatures was the trend across Kentucky last week. Temperatures for the week averaged 62 degrees across the state which was 6 degrees below normal. Total precipitation was 0.32 inches statewide, which was 0.79 inches below normal.

Topsoil moisture was rated 2 percent short, 85 percent adequate, and 13 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 3 percent short, 82 percent adequate, and 15 percent surplus. There were 5.2 days suitable for fieldwork.

The primary farming activities for the week were cutting and baling hay, setting tobacco, planting corn and soybeans.

Tobacco setting continued to be behind last year and the five-year average. Thirty percent of the burley tobacco plants had been set, compared with 55 percent last year and the five-year average of 39 percent. Thirty-two percent of the dark tobacco had been set, behind last year’s 52 percent and the five-year average of 37 percent. Farmers reported the tobacco crop condition as 1 percent poor, 36 percent fair, 57 percent good, and 6 percent excellent.

Corn producers have seeded 83 percent of their acres, compared to 98 percent last year, and 94 percent for the five-year average. Crop emergence was reported at 69 percent, below last year’s 92 percent and the five-year average of 86 percent.

The average emerged corn height was 6 inches, with the most advanced height at 11 inches. Corn condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 20 percent fair, 62 percent good, and 13 percent excellent.

As of Sunday, May 25, soybeans were 23 percent planted compared to 55 percent last year and 44 percent for the five-year average. Soybeans emerged was reported at 8 percent, behind last year’s 30 percent and the five-year average of 26 percent.

The winter wheat crop condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 2 percent poor, 19 percent fair, 44 percent good, and 34 percent excellent. Some farmers report that rain and cool weather has delayed their wheat crop development.

As of Sunday, May 25, 22 percent of sorghum acres had been planted, behind last year’s 57 percent, and the five- year average of 41 percent.

The hay crop condition was rated at 2 percent very poor, 8 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 46 percent good, and 12 percent excellent. Pasture condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 35 percent fair, 48 percent good, and 11 percent excellent.

North Carolina

Most of North Carolina received scattered rain throughout the week with Hayesville recording 1.29 inches. Average temperatures were below normal and ranged between 52 to 71 degrees.

Soil moisture levels in the Mountain Region are considerably dryer than the Piedmont and Coastal Regions, with farmers hoping for adequate rainfall in the weeks to come.

There were 5.9 days suitable for field work, compared to 5.5 from the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 6 percent very short, 22 percent short, 66 percent adequate and 6 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included the planting of cotton, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, sweet potatoes, flue-cured and burley tobacco and harvesting hay, barley and truck crops.

South Carolina

Most of South Carolina is continuing to dry out. Large portions of the Low Country did, however, receive appreciable amounts of rain. The relatively dry weather for much of the state allowed for a lot of work in the fields planting cotton, peanuts, soybeans, and other crops.

Despite the increasingly dry situation, cooler than average temperatures have helped most of the field crops remain in mostly good condition. Soil moisture ratings for the week declined to 4 percent very short, 51 percent short, and 45 percent adequate.

There was a statewide average of 6.2 days that were suitable for field work.

The corn crop has just about all emerged, and was in mostly good condition. Corn in some areas was showing signs of twisting during the middle of the day. Fortunately, cooler weather at night, and moderate temperatures during the day have helped.

Like the previous week, there has been a lot of cotton activity in the fields. Thrips were having to be controlled in some fields. Cotton was reported as 31 percent fair, 66 percent good, and 3 percent excellent.

Oats were quickly ripening. Harvest has been progressing well. There were reports of some small grain fields being flattened by high winds from storms. The crop continued to remain in mostly good condition.

Peanut planting was still going strong. Conditions were 27 percent fair, 71 percent good, and 2 percent excellent.

Soybean planting was just about halfway complete, and was ahead of last year, and the five-year average. Conditions were little changed from the previous week, remaining in mostly good condition. T

The sweet potato crop was also about half-way planted. The crop was in fair condition.

Tobacco was still in very good condition.

Winter wheat harvest has just begun. Like most of the field crops, wheat was in mostly good condition.


The week started off with scattered showers and cooler than normal temperatures. As the week progressed, most of Virginia experienced dry and warm weather. Days suitable for field work were 5.4.

The warm weather conditions allowed corn and soybean plantings to advance. In several counties, corn was replanted due to cold weather, slug pressure, and flooding problems.

Barley and winter wheat harvest has just begun. There is some lodging due to heavy rains earlier in the month. However, the majority of the crop is in good to excellent condition.

Other farming activities included making hay, scouting for weeds and insects, weaning calves, and planting and cultivating tobacco.


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


ACCOMACK (Jim Belote) “Crops in good shape. Wheat heads filling out nicely. Most corn up and looks good. Soybean planting should pick up next week. Farmers spraying weeds for no-till soybeans. Tomatoes staked and vigor good. Farmers scouting in corn for weeds and insects. Most corn this year is no-till. Farmers applying fertilizer for soybeans.”

MIDDLESEX (David Moore) “Great weather this week for haymaking and bean planting. Wheat also loves this cool, clear weather. Land prep for soybean planting continues and haymaking is in full swing. There is some vegetable planting going on; tomatoes, cantaloupes and sweet corn. Some low land corn still waiting to be planted. Growers could possibly get this done if weather stays nice through the first of next week. Several farmers still have considerable acres to plant and will have to make decision to plant corn or beans by June 1. Corn condition over all looks good. The stands are good, but corn needs some warm sunny weather and some warm nights to get it going. Temperatures overnight still in upper 40s for most of the week. Some side-dressing of corn beginning this week.

NORTHUMBERLAND (Matt Lewis) “The cool, wet weather that dominated the month of May took its toll on corn — in the form of slugs. About 1,000 acres of corn was replanted this week due to heavy slug damage. Damage was worse in heavy residue areas, where banded starter fertilizers were not used, and in certain hybrids that don't grow as fast in cooler weather. Farmers began side-dressing corn, and started planting early soybeans. Barley has reached physiological maturity and will be ready for harvest in another week. Wheat is beginning to dry down and will be ready for harvest in 2 to 3 weeks.

WESTMORELAND (Sam Johnson) “Showers came early in the week, but field work resumed as drying conditions took hold mid-week on. Corn side-dressing was done on some fields. Corn growth is slow and plants are yellow due to cold temps. Some fields are being damaged by slugs and are being treated, and in some cases, being replanted due to slug damage. Soybeans are going in the ground. Lots of hay cut mid-week as it looked like dry conditions would hold through the weekend. Vegetable planting and harvest of early crops continue.


HIGHLAND (Rodney Leech) “Cool, wet weather kept field work to a minimum the first half of the week. More seasonable weather arrived with dryer conditions for the weekend which enabled farmers to get some corn planted and a few fields of hay mowed down.

ROCKBRIDGE (Jon Repair) “Cool season grass hay harvesting has begun. Producers who did not fertilize in an attempt to save on production costs are beginning to realize the downside of low yields where fertilizer was not applied. First Cutting alfalfa is mostly completed. Harvest was started early in an attempt to control alfalfa weevil culturally rather than with chemical controls. Small grains for harvest are just about completed. Pastures have reached maturity and need to be clipped so as to enhance vegetative growth while temperatures remain cool and moisture is available. Rains have begun to be spotty throughout the county rather than rain events that are county-wide. Some early corn plantings have experienced poor germination and some fields have needed to be replanted.”


CAROLINE (McGann Saphir) “Pasture and hayfields are looking much improved over last season. Most hay producers have gotten an excellent first cutting. Some fields that were too wet at optimal maturity are still being harvested. Corn planting is mostly over. We have seen some damage to stands in scattered fields from excess water. Overall the corn crop looks good and producers are preparing to side-dress plants at about the 18-24-inch stage. Soybean planting is getting under way. Many full season fields have been planted and as the barley harvest gets farther along more double-crop beans will be planted. Wheat and barley fields look good except for some lodging due to the heavy rains earlier in the month. Barley harvest is just getting under way. Yields look good.


CARROLL (Wythe Morris) “Scattered showers at night have helped to push germination of crops and development of hay. First cuttings look excellent.”

GRAYSON (Kevin Spurlin) “Occasional slug damage has been reported in corn fields mostly due to cool, overcast days. Sunshine and warmer weather late last week stimulated much hay making over extended weekend.


PITTSYLVANIA (Stephen Barts & Jamie Stowe) “Tobacco planting is nearing completion and should be finished this week. Plants that are in the ground are looking fair thanks to recent rains. Growers are preparing equipment for wheat harvest and beginning to cultivate tobacco. Producers have continued to make hay, although they have had to dodge rain showers. The hay looks thick in most areas and should be good quality. Cattle producers are beginning to wean calves in preparation for tel-o-auction sales.

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