Light rains slowed the Alabama crop harvest this past week as cotton picking lagged last year’s pace by nearly 10 percent and was 4 percent behind the five-year average. Corn harvest was winding down, however.

In Florida, peanut digging was pretty much on schedule with a 73 percent completion rate. That compared to 66 percent at the same time last year and 74 percent for the five-year average.

In Georgia, harvest continued for cotton, corn and peanuts. Irrigated yields were a pleasant surprise for some growers.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 10 percent very short, 32 percent short, 57 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus.

Here’s an overall look at the situation in the three states as supplied by the USDA/NASS field offices for the week ending Oct. 19.

Alabama

Crop harvest was slow towards the beginning of the past week because of fog, overcast skies, and light rains that kept producers out of their fields. However, by week’s end, progress was quick under optimal conditions.

Just over nine percent of Alabama soils were categorized as drought-free, leaving nearly 91 percent suffering from abnormally dry to severe hydrological drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released for Oct. 14, 2008. At this time last year, 73 percent of the state was experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

Average temperatures varied between one and eight degrees above normal during the past week. Daytime highs ranged from 79 degrees in Sand Mountain to a warm 88 degrees in Brewton. Overnight lows varied between a freezing 32 degrees in Russellville to 49 degrees in Headland.

All reporting weather stations received rainfall during the past week. Total accumulations ranged from 0.01 of an inch in Mobile to 1.20 inches in Talladega. Over a four-day period, Alexander City received 1.02 inches.

The wet weather during the past couple of weeks left the state’s soil moisture in mostly adequate or surplus condition, with areas in the north drier than those in the south.

Alabama’s corn harvest was winding down; nearly the entire crop was harvested, with progress slightly behind last year and three percentage points behind the five-year average.

The condition of the cotton crop remained unchanged from a week ago. The harvest pace lagged last year’s by nearly 10 percent and was 4 percent behind the five-year average. Leonard Kuykendall, Regional Extension Agent located in Autauga County, reported that it was a short week for picking cotton and harvesting peanuts. Most of the peanut crop remained in good to excellent condition.

Digging was slowed at the end of the previous week and into the beginning of the past week, but producers hurried to get as many acres as possible harvested in good soil conditions.

The 2008 soybean crop was slow to mature, with only 92 percent having reached the leaf-dropping stage, compared to 94 percent last year and over the past five years. Producers harvested 9 percent of the crop during the past week, bringing the pace in line with last year and ahead of the five-year average.

Overall, pastures and ranges remained virtually unchanged with only a slight shift between those in good or excellent condition. Henry Dorough, regional Extension agent located in Talladega County, stated that permanent pastures and early-planted winter grazing were in great shape thanks to the recent rainfall. Producers were busy finishing their last cutting of hay for the year. Other farmers spent time drilling or over-seeding pastures with small grains for winter grazing with progress moving ahead nicely.

The condition of the state’s livestock improved during the past week, as more grass was available to forage. For the most part, animals were moving into the winter months in mostly fair to excellent condition.

Florida

High temperatures were in the 80s last week. Lows were mostly in the 50s and 60s, but several areas of the Panhandle and Big Bend reached the 40s at night. Overall, major cities averaged temperatures that were 1 to 4 degrees above normal. Most of the state saw less than half an inch of rain this past week. The southern counties of Dade, Collier, and Broward each received between half and one inch of rain.

Peanut digging was 73 percent complete, compared with 66 percent last year, and a five year average progress of 74 percent.

Some very dry areas of the Panhandle and Big Bend experienced delays as they continued to plant winter small grains and forage. Jefferson County reported that soil moisture was adequate for germination. Growth in hay fields has slowed due to shorter days and cooler nights. Most growers were making their final hay cuttings.

Jackson County harvested cotton and soybeans.

Overall soil moisture levels were mostly short in northern counties and adequate in central and southern counties.

Some vegetable producers in Hendry County reported concern of disease due to recent rains. Cabbage planting was near completion in St. Johns, Putnam, and Flagler counties. The first tomato harvest is expected soon in Manatee County. Cucumbers, eggplant, okra, squash, avocados, and tomatoes moved through the market last week.

The summer pasture condition was declining with quality and quantity falling. In the Panhandle, pasture condition was fair to excellent with most in good condition. Already planted winter forage was just emerging, but further planting was delayed by low topsoil moisture. Forage growth was slow due to cool weather.

In the northern areas, pasture condition ranged from fair to good. In Dixie and Jefferson counties, permanent pasture forage was not growing due to shortened daylight.

Planting of small grains for winter grazing was under way with soil moisture adequate for germination and early growth. Columbia County, cool season forage and grains were beginning to be planted. Cattle condition was fair to good.

In the central areas, pasture ranged from poor to good with most in fair condition. Some pastures were not growing due to drought and other areas were still recovering from Tropical Storm Fay. The protein content of pasture was low which will affect calf growth and weight. Some cattle were in poor condition, but hoof rot problems were clearing up as pastures dried out.

In the southwest areas, pasture condition was very poor to excellent with poor condition caused by drought.

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

Weather conditions were generally cooler with light winds and sunny skies in most of the citrus-producing counties. Over the past weekend a cold front moved through the state bringing much cooler temperatures. High temperatures were reported in the middle to upper 80s with early morning lows dropping into the 50s and 60s.

Rainfall was light throughout the state with the exception of Hendry County. Immokalee reported scattered showers and received the most rain in the southern areas with slightly over a half an inch.

Citrus trees were in overall good condition in well-cared-for groves with fruit sets above average on early oranges and early tangerines. Maturity levels on early and late oranges were showing the crop was ahead of recent historical averages.

Grove activity included limited harvesting, irrigating, herbicide application, and mowing. Scouting for canker and greening by growers and caretakers continues.

Thirty-nine packinghouses have opened and have begun shipping fruit and five processing plants have begun running fruit in small quantities. Varieties being packed included early oranges (Navels, Ambersweet, and Hamlin), white and colored grapefruit, and Fallglo tangerines.

Georgia

The state received little rainfall during the week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Daily average high temperatures were in the high 70s and low 80s most of the week. Average lows were in the 50s.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 10 percent very short, 32 percent short, 57 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

Some growers needed more rain to ease the dry conditions. Others who had begun harvesting were pleased with the lack of rain.

Harvest continued for cotton, corn, and peanuts. Irrigated yields were surprising to some growers.

Many growers had an abundance of hay and have completed the last cutting of the year.

Fall planting has started; some growers planted ahead of showers in hopes of getting a stand.

Other activities included digging peanuts, servicing harvest equipment, and cutting and baling hay.

County Extension agents reported an average of 5.7 days suitable for fieldwork.