Clemson University cotton specialist Mike Jones says even areas that got adequate rainfall may not make as much cotton as they think. The nighttime temperatures don’t give the plant a chance to recover from the daytime heat. The plant expends huge amounts of energy coping with daytime heat and typically rests as night time temperatures cool. With nighttime temperatures often in the mid-80s for days at a time, cotton plants keep on burning carbohydrates, rather than using this energy to set and develop bolls.        

“Our cotton is heavily fruited, but severely stunted. If we get rain and some moderation in the high temperatures we could still make a bale per acre cotton — maybe a little better. That’s not good, but without the rain, it’s going to be a lot worse,” Black predicts.                 

In Southeastern, Va., and across the border into North Carolina peanut production is at risk.    

Though they require as much or more water than other crops, peanuts have a way of hunkering down to wait for the moisture to come. Even if rains come and pods develop, it will be tough for peanut growers to accurately time harvest.    

Combined with the need for good harvest weather — the outlook for most peanut growers is justifiably guarded. The heat and drought have taken a toll on crops, but likewise it has, and is, taking a big toll on agricultural research.

At the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Suffolk, Va., a pond that has been there as long as anyone can remember was pumped dry, creating a significant negative effect on on-going research projects.     

Innovative researchers were able to use swine lagoon water, but by early August that too was gone, leaving few options for growing much-needed research crops.      

Hopefully, Southeastern growers have seen the last of El Niño for a while. Dubbed ‘Little Boy’ in the Southern Hemisphere, the oft-occurring weather pattern created huge problems in the Southeast in the winter and spring with record floods and snowfall.  Ironically, the winter rains produced such an excess of water that most areas currently in a drought situation actually have fairly normal total rainfall amounts for the year.