Even though all weather stations in Alabama reported receiving rainfall during the week ending April 29, areas of severe and extreme drought conditions continue to spread. The lack of soil moisture is a grave concern for peanut and cotton farmers who have yet to plant their crops.
The year- to-date precipitation totals accumulated at Alabama weather stations continue to slide further behind normal, with Alabaster pushing below a 14 inch deficit.
Temperatures for the week were a few degrees above normal for most areas of the state. Talladega, Livingston and Brewton all recorded daytime highs of 85 degrees, while Belle Mina fell to an overnight low of 40 degrees.
Rainfall totals ranged from just a trace at 0.01 inches in Marion Junction to 2.30 inches in Bay Minnette.
The 2007 wheat crop is very sporadic, as some wheat stands remain in good or excellent condition, while others affected by the freeze are a complete loss.
Barley yellow dwarf virus has shown some significance in some wheat fields. Fungal diseases are virtually absent due to the dry weather.
Most of the state’s corn crop is reported to be in fair to good condition. Many producers are busy spraying fertilizer and herbicide applications to their fields.
Cotton and peanut planting is slowly moving along. With a lack of soil moisture, farmers in most areas of the state are reluctant to put seeds in the ground.
Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension agent noted that cotton planting started and has since stopped as producers in the county await more rainfall.
James D. Jones, Jr., Henry County Extension agent stated that cotton planting began this past week, and is moving along at a fast pace.
Some early soybeans have been planted, but like cotton and peanuts, producers are waiting for more rain.
Dennis Delaney, Extension soybean specialist added that Asian soybean rust has no longer been found on Kudzu due to earlier freezes and dry weather, but scouting in on going.
James D. Miles, regional Extension agent and horticulture specialist indicated that the peach crop in south Alabama is in the pit-hardening stage, and producers are expecting a full crop.
Watermelons are in great shape, and should be ready for harvest early this crop season. Cantaloupes have shown some injury, and may be stunted and delayed. Satsumas are at or past the 2/3 petal stage of blooming. Crop set is still unknown, but the number of blooms seen in most groves was average to above average.
The pecan crop in southern areas of Alabama looks good, as most trees are in the late pollination stage. Monte Nesbitt, research horticulturist mentioned that scab pressure has been light, but growers are encouraged to assess their need for fungicide applications.
Pecan nut casebearer moths have been captured in traps, indicating the need for insecticide sprays.
Strong winds have sand blasted some young vegetable seedlings, resulting in some bean and pea crops that will have to be replanted.
The majority of Alabama pasture conditions still range from poor to good. The lack of rainfall, combined with cool overnight temperatures, has pasture and hayland off to a slow start this spring.
Jones added that pastures in Henry County need rain and warmer nights to help stimulate growth for grazing purposes. Some producers have started cutting hay, but yields are below average to average.
Ryegrass hay yields are turning out well. Darrell Rankins, Extension cattle specialist at Auburn University reported the majority of the 2006 hay supply has been exhausted, and some ranchers are evaluating the potential of using the freeze damaged wheat as forage.
Others may harvest the wheat as hay if it will dry properly.
Drought conditions persisted across the state, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Average highs were in the 80s and average lows were in the 50s most of the week. There were some scattered showers, mostly in the northern part of the state. Average rainfall was 0.12 inches during the week ending April 29.
The average rainfall deficit for the state was 8.48 inches. The extremely dry conditions have wildfires breaking out across the southern part of the state.
Soil moisture conditions were rated at 35 percent very short, 46 percent short, 19 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.
Crop conditions have declined rapidly over the past month due to the Easter freeze and the worsening drought conditions.
Pastures and forage crops have suffered tremendously, causing a critical situation for livestock owners.
Most livestock owners were purchasing feed, and some farmers even baled wheat to feed cattle. Little grazing was available and hay was scarce as well.
Cattle producers were concerned they may have to begin selling cattle in a few weeks to alleviate the situation. Hay and pastures were being irrigated where water was available.
Irrigated crops were faring well, but dryland crops were suffering from the lack of rain. Growers were waiting for moisture to begin planting peanuts and cotton, and in some cases they were irrigating the land in order to begin planting.
Other activities included field preparation for peanuts and cotton, fertilizer application to pastures, and the routine care of poultry and livestock.
County Extension agents reported an average of 6.3 days suitable for fieldwork.
Virtually all areas remained dry with no precipitation in most counties across the state during the week of April 23 through April 29.
Pensacola recorded the most rainfall for the week with over one and a half inches. Jay received nearly an inch of precipitation for the week. Apopka, Marianna and Tallahassee all received around a quarter of an inch of rainfall.
Wild fire danger remained high in all areas across the Peninsula. Shifting winds fueled brush fires in southern Georgia, which blew smoke into central Florida areas over the weekend.
Temperatures in the major cities averaged from normal to two degrees above normal for the week. Daytime highs were in 80s and 90s. Nighttime lows were in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Some growers in Jackson County have delayed cotton and corn planting due to continued drought conditions.
Peanut planting has started in Jackson County with growers needing ample rains. Peanuts are 5 percent planted compared with 4 percent by this date last year and the five-year average of 7 percent.
Growers in Marion and Levy counties are expected to begin planting this week. Soil moisture supplies in the Panhandle were rated mostly very short to short. Over the northern Peninsula, including the Big Bend area, soil moisture was rated very short to short with some pockets of adequate supplies.
For the central and southern Peninsula, soil moisture was rated very short to short. Hernando and Marion counties reported short to adequate soil moisture supplies.
Dry, clear conditions allowed vegetable harvesting to proceed on schedule. Cantaloupe cutting was under way with light amounts available. Growers in Hernando County reported problems with thrips damage on mature blueberries as well as birds eating berries.
Cabbage cutting continued to slow as the season winds down. Growers marketed snap beans, blueberries, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, greens, lettuce, parsley, peppers, radishes, squash, tomatoes, and watermelons.
Tennessee corn growers were hard at work last week finishing up replanting caused by the Easter freeze. As a result, by week's end, planting progress was on pace with normal and only slightly behind last year.
Less than a fifth of the state's corn acreage remains to be planted with almost half emerged.
Cotton planting got under way in a few areas last week, slightly behind the normal pace. Soybean growers also began their planting activities last week and will increase the tempo as corn planting comes to an end.
Over two-thirds of the winter wheat crop had reached the heading stage, ahead of the five-year average but trailing last year's rapid development. Due to freeze damage, a large number of winter wheat acres originally intended to be harvested for grain were being cut for hay.
Pasture conditions improved slightly from the week earlier, but more rain is needed in most areas.
There were 5 days suitable for fieldwork last week. As of Friday, April 27, topsoil moisture levels were rated 6 percent very short, 29 percent short, 63 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 10 percent very short, 40 percent short, 49 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.
Temperatures last week averaged 4 to 5 degrees above normal across the state. Rainfall was below normal for the much of the state last week, while East Tennessee averaged near normal.
County agent comments:
"The final results of freeze damage to wheat are yet to be determined. Some fields are showing white bleached heads as they emerge. I am still hopeful we will harvest a third to half a crop of grain. Results will vary from field to field and from variety to variety. Any corn planted before March 24 that was up got hammered by the freeze. Any planted after March 24 seems to be coming out of the freeze okay." Tim Campbell, Dyer County
"Some plants are re-budding and re-leafing this week from the frost damage. Grapevines are re-budding and leafing out as well as some fruit trees. Still see lots of dead leaves on trees. Fescue is beginning to head and will cause hay to be low in yields. All wheat that was planted for hay has been checked and we found no nitrate problems." Steve Glass, Decatur County
"Rain this week was a major boost for our livestock forages. Some producers have already replanted corn. Although most of the fruit crop was destroyed by the freeze, most of the trees appear to be on the rebound." Ronnie Barron, Cheatham County
"Another rain essentially missed us. Local rainfall was mostly less than 0.5 inches. Hay and pasture situation looks worse everyday." DeWayne Perry, Williamson County
"We are still evaluating the losses. Everyone wants to salvage wheat for hay and wondering what the feed value will be. Ninety-five percent of apples, peaches, and blueberries are gone. Still trying to decide on the damage to pastures and hay crops." Scott Chadwell, Putnam County
"I believe most of the wheat will be harvested for hay. We have already had over 50 acres baled at the beginning of the week. Hayfields look to be heading out early with a drastic reduction in volume. I anticipate at least 50 percent less hay for our first cutting." Jerry Lamb, Rhea County
Much of the State experienced warmer temperatures with highs ranging from 80 to 88 degrees. The warmer temperatures helped spring plantings progress and improved most crop conditions.
There were 6.2 days suitable for field work this week compared to the 4.7 days from the previous week. Statewide, soil moisture levels are rated at 2 percent very short, 32 percent short, 65 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.
Activities during the week included the planting of corn, sorghum, tobacco and the preparation for other spring crop plantings. Crop scouting continues to assess the freeze damages from earlier in the month.
South Carolina is continuing to experience below average precipitation for the year. Soils continue to dry from lack of precipitation and above average daytime temperatures. Soil moisture reports are at 12 percent very short, 43 percent short, 41 percent adequate, and 4 percent surplus.
Field conditions were favorable this week for farmers to plant and replant crops as there was a statewide average of 6.2 days suitable for field work.
Corn was 98 percent planted and 87 percent emerged. Corn conditions are poor to mostly fair. A portion of the crop did not recover from the Easter freeze and has had to be replanted.
Tobacco transplanting is ongoing with 76 percent of the crop set, behind last year and the five year average. Some growers are having difficulty finding additional plants to replace those damaged by the cold three weeks ago.
Oats were 89 percent headed this week. Winter wheat was 75 percent headed, and 4 percent turning color. Small grain conditions are mostly very poor to poor.
Early soybean planting is currently at 6 percent complete.
Livestock conditions are still fair to mostly good. Pasture conditions also are fair to good. Some vegetable crops are behind due to replanting. Peach conditions continue to deteriorate and are now reported as 88 percent very poor, 10 percent poor and 2 percent fair.
This past week the Commonwealth experienced warmer temperatures, with scattered showers that provided some areas with rain. Days suitable for field work were 5.80. Topsoil moisture was adequate.
Grain producers were scouting for cereal leaf beetles, aphids and diseases. Insecticides and fungicides were being applied to wheat fields.
Producers were finishing up planting corn and started planting cotton and soybeans.
Vegetable planting was progressing well. Flue-cured tobacco transplanting is on schedule.
Other farm activities included seeding and fertilizing pastures, shearing sheep and processing calves.
Another jump in temperatures was experienced during the week ended April 29. During the past three weeks the state average jumped from 41 to 51 degrees and then to 62 degrees.
Readings hit the mid-80s for many communities and overnight lows held well above the freezing mark for the first time this spring. We were above normal for all regions this week.
A couple of days of showers and thunderstorms provided significant rainfall for all but the eastern Panhandle. Totals above three quarters of an inch were common and six of the reporting sites had over an inch. Eastern Panhandle communities measured around one quarter inch for the week.
Williamson had the highest recorded temperature of 89 degrees. Marlinton had the lowest recorded temperature of 35 degrees. The state average temperature was 62 degrees.
Wheeling had the highest recorded amount of precipitation with 1.52 inches. Romney and Petersburg both had the lowest recorded amount of precipitation with 0.24 of an inch. The state average precipitation was 0.79 of an inch.
Number of days suitable for fieldwork averaged 4 days last week. Total acres plowed that are intended for spring planted crops were 62 percent complete, compared with 76 percent in 2006 and 67 percent for the 5-year average.
Hay and roughage supplies ranged from very short to surplus, but were reported as mostly adequate. Feed grain supplies ranged from very short to adequate, but most were adequate.
Farm activities included: applying fertilizer, fence building, preparing fields, marketing feeders and working cattle in preparation for spring turn out.