Extreme heat adds to Southeast crop woes

Parched soils have held back Southeast crop prospects for the bulk of the 2007 growing season, and now triple-digit temperatures are adding to the misery.

The various state USDA, NASS field offices reported the high temperatures scorched field crops and added extra stress to the livestock sector.

Here’s the report for the week ending Aug. 12, 2007:


Recent rains during the week of Aug. 6 through Aug. 12 increased soil moisture in some areas, but others remained very dry. Rainfall events concentrated in certain counties and ranged from less than an inch in most counties to over one inch in Hillsborough, Orange, Hernando, Collier, Polk, and Gadsden. De Soto, Franklin, and Jefferson counties reported over two inches of rain for the past week.

Despite the increase in shower activity, the extreme high temperatures limited the gains in soil moisture. Temperatures at all the major stations averaged above normal for the week. Daytime highs were in the upper 90s while nighttime lows were in the 70s.

All counties reported daytime high temperatures above 93 degrees. Marianna and Palmdale reported at least one daytime high at 100 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.

Peanut condition was rated two percent very poor, five percent poor, 40 percent fair, 37 percent good, and 16 percent excellent.

In Washington County, peanuts and cotton production levels were reported as below normal, but seemed to be improving slightly with this week’s showers.

In Jackson County, the peanut crop was looking good, but not pegging as many nuts as expected.

In Jefferson County, some areas were still relatively dry with pastures wilting. Most hay producers in Jefferson and Marion counties started cutting hay, but afternoon thunderstorms were hindering baling activities.

In Sumter County, hay fields that were recently cut got wet from this past week’s rain.

Soil moisture was rated mostly adequate in most central and southern Peninsula counties, but varied from very short to adequate over the Panhandle and northern Peninsula. Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Washington, Gadsden, Hamilton, and Hendry counties reported some areas with very short soil moisture.

The week’s rainfall delayed some fall vegetable crop preparation in some central Peninsula localities. In Washington County, snap beans and some squash were being planted. Okra harvesting remained active in Dade County.


The state experienced a heat wave during the week, with temperatures breaking 100 in many parts of the state, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office.

Average high temperatures were in the upper 90s and lower 100s most of the week. Lows averaged in the 70s. Average rainfall was 0.63 inches. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 27 percent very short, 41 percent short, 31 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

Extremely high temperatures and limited moisture stressed crops and livestock this past week. Some areas of the state benefited from scattered showers, but most areas received little to no rain. Drought conditions quickly returned.

The extreme heat has slowed plant growth and has caused plants to wilt.

Between the dry conditions and the late plantings, row crop maturity has been behind normal this year.

Corn earworms have been reported in cotton.

Field preparation for fall vegetables was under way. Other activities included cutting hay, harvesting corn, feeding hay to livestock, irrigating crops, and the routine care of poultry and livestock.

County Extension agents reported an average of 6.5 days suitable for fieldwork.


Scorching temperatures and parched soil conditions in most of northern and now parts of south-eastern Alabama caused 51.8 percent of the state to be categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as suffering from exceptional drought conditions.

This was an increase of 19.3 percent from a week ago. There were no areas of exceptional drought at this time last year.

Numerous reports from counties with temperatures above 100 degrees were received during the past week, with notes that crops, pastures and livestock suffered tremendously.

Temperatures reached as many as 11 degrees above normal for this time of year, with daytime highs ranging from 98 degrees in Sand Mountain to a sweltering 107 degrees in Tuscaloosa.

Overnight lows remained on the warm side, and varied from 63 degrees in Hamilton to 77 degrees in Headland and Dothan.

Rain showers were isolated and limited. Brewton received the most precipitation at 0.27 inches, while many other weather stations stayed dry.

As harvest began in some counties across the state, most of the corn crop was reported in very poor or poor condition.

James D. Jones, Jr., Henry County Extension agent, indicated that some producers with irrigated corn fields began harvest during the past week, while other growers were chopping silage to feed to their cattle.

Arthur Threatt, Washington County Extension agent, stated that some corn in the county was harvested.

The 2007 soybean crop was shaping up to resemble that of last year. Early planted, early maturity soybeans were sown heavily in the northern part of the state, and had been hurt the most by the continued hot, dry weather. Cindy Owens in the Fayette County FSA office noted that soybeans were stressed and dropping leaves. Most producers with these fields expected to have severely depressed yields.

Dennis Delaney, soybean specialist at Auburn University, reported there were more late-planted soybeans this year due to extra wheat acreage and strong prices. This portion of the crop remained in the critical bloom and pod set stages during the past week. With timely rainfall, the outlook for these beans was hopeful.

Insect and disease pressure was low.

The hot, dry weather kept Asian soybean rust contained to Baldwin County where rain showers have been more frequent. Scattered reports of stinkbugs and worms have been received.

Cotton conditions declined over the past week, as soil moisture levels fell. The majority of the state’s crop was reported to be in very poor or poor condition, as plants dropped bolls and began blooming out the top.

Jones added that cotton and peanut fields in Henry County were in desperate need of rainfall.

The condition of Alabama’s peanut crop worsened during the past week, but the majority of the crop remained in fair to excellent condition. Pegging jumped ahead of last year to 80 percent complete, but lingered behind the 5-year average.

With searing temperatures and decimated soil moisture levels, pasture conditions deteriorated over the past week. Livestock producers searched for pastures with enough forage to adequately feed cattle herds. The first harvest of hay for Henry County producers was nearly complete, while growers in Washington County continued to cut hay.

Donald Mann in the Jackson County FSA office mentioned that livestock water supplies in the county have dried up.

Jimmy Smitherman, Montgomery County Extension Agent, reported that the recent triple digit temperatures had caused drought stress not only on pastures and hayfields, but livestock as well.


With high temperatures and no rainfall this past week, farmers across Tennessee are definitely feeling the impact of the continuing drought.

Crop and pasture conditions continued to fall into the very poor to poor categories. With no rain, there were 7 days considered suitable for fieldwork last week.

The main field activities were harvesting corn silage and vegetables. Tobacco topping also made good progress last week, with harvest in its second week.

Virtually all the cotton crop was setting bolls with a handful of fields beginning to open.

Soybean development continued slightly ahead of normal, while most of the crop is setting pods.

The state's corn crop continues to move closer to harvest with over a fifth of the acreage now mature.

Growers also devoted time to insect and disease scouting, while livestock producers continued providing supplemental feeds and hauling water.

Much of Tennessee remains in the severe to exceptional drought category.

Topsoil moisture levels were rated 56 percent very short, 33 percent short, and 11 percent adequate. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 60 percent very short, 31 percent short, and 9 percent adequate. Temperatures were 8 to 12 degrees above normal last week, while rainfall was well below average.

County Agent Comments:

"Extremely hot and extremely dry weather has hurt grain crops tremendously. Corn is drying down prematurely, soybeans are suffering. Extreme temperatures with windy conditions have had a "blow-torch" effect on crops this week, with no relief in sight." Jeff Lannom, Weakley County

"The Dog Days of Summer have come in with a bang. Crops and livestock have had a tough week dealing with 100 degree days and 80 degree nights. After some relief seen in July with a few scattered showers, crops have taken a giant step back over the last 10 days. There have been reports of ponds, small creeks and wells going dry resulting in livestock producers hauling water to their animals." Calvin Bryant, Lawrence County

"Extremely hot weather and no rain have turned a decent tobacco crop south. We received a rain on Aug. 3 and some things greened up, but since hotter and drier and tobacco has changed its hot outlook last week. People are culling more cattle, selling calves early and feeding short. We need rain bad and cooler temps." Jason Evitts, Trousdale County

"Rainfall in July helped, but it did not last long because the soil was so dry to start with. Grass started turning green and growing some but now we are extremely hot and dry again. Hay stocks are very short. Many beef producers sold their calves early and reduced the size of their cow herds. What rain we have gotten has been timely for tobacco and corn; we are not hurt as bad on those crops as we are on forages." Mike Heiskell, Claiborne County

"No rain and high temperatures have completely evaporated any remaining moisture from the soil which has totally stopped all crop growth. Pasture fields would burn where there is enough residue to fuel a fire. Most producers are feeding hay while some producers are reducing cattle or in some situations liquidating their herds. Livestock ponds, streams and springs are drying up and creating major problems for livestock producers." Bob Sliger, Monroe County

South Carolina

Record high temperatures and severe drought took a toll on crops, pastures and livestock across South Carolina last week. Water levels in streams and reservoirs were at very low levels and declining steadily. Only crops with irrigation received moisture; everything else was withering under the excessive heat.

Soil moisture ratings across the state were 46 percent very short, 42 percent short, and 12 percent adequate. There was an average of 6.6 days that were suitable for field work.

Corn harvesting continued with disappointing yields reported in several areas. Drying down of the stalks was sped up by the extreme tempatures of last week. The conditions for the week were 9 percent very poor, 20 percent poor, 40 percent fair, 28 percent good, and 3 percent excellent.

Cotton growers were concerned about the loss of yield potential due to the heat and lack of rain that may cause a significant amount of cotton boll drop. Conditions were 4 percent very poor, 13 percent poor, 53 percent fair, 28 percent good, and 2 percent excellent.

Peanut growers reported rainfall is desperately needed quickly or peanut yield potential will begin declining rapidly. Conditions were 1 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 50 percent fair, 43 percent good, and 1 percent excellent.

Soybeans also need rain for pod development as the crop was 80 percent bloomed.

Conditions were 11 percent very poor, 18 percent poor, 48 percent fair, 22 percent good and 1 percent excellent.

Tobacco harvesting continued behind normal. Conditions were 9 percent poor, 25 percent fair, 59 percent good, and 7 percent excellent.

The severe drought and heat was taking a toll on other crops and livestock. Hay conditions continued their steady decline. One hundred plus degree weather was hard on livestock in most areas of the state. Breeding beef cattle were being taken to market in some areas of the state due to lack of pastures and hay running out.

Peach harvesting continued to be less than average for this time of year and conditions were mostly very poor. Applies were rated in mostly very poor condition.

North Carolina

Most areas of North Carolina experienced less than 2 inches of rainfall, with Roanoke Rapids having the most precipitation, 2.80 inches.

There were 6.4 days suitable for field work compared to 6.3 from the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 46 percent very short, 32 percent short, 22 percent adequate, and zero percent surplus.

Activities during the week included harvesting corn for silage, peaches, hay, and flue-cured tobacco, as well as scouting for pest and disease problems.


Much of the Commonwealth remained hot and dry this past week with high temperatures in most areas. Pasture and hayfield conditions continued to deteriorate due to the blistering temperatures.

Corn in many areas has begun to dry down. Soybeans are entering a stage where precipitation is critical. Recent spotty showers have helped significantly, but the rain needs to continue consistently to ensure average yields.

Cotton conditions have diminished as well because of the extreme heat.

Vegetable producers continue to irrigate and are harvesting watermelons, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and other summer vegetables.

Other activities this past week included spraying insecticides and fungicides on crops, preparing to plant fall greens, machine repair, scouting fields, attending field days, and checking for corn moisture and dry down.

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