Hot, dry weather settled in over the lower Southeast last week putting severe stress on row crops, but allowing wheat harvest to progress rapidly.
Good wheat yields were being reported, but the early season weather again threatened to take a toll on crop yields.
Here’s how the Alabama, Florida and Georgia USDA/NASS state field offices reported the situation for the week ending June 8.
Alabama was reported as being free of extreme drought conditions for the first time since the week of March 20, 2007, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released for June 3, 2008.
A hot, dry weather pattern has settled over most of the state, creating great conditions for harvesting hay and wheat, but putting Alabama’s other crops in a state of stress. Temperatures during the past week reached as many as 10 degrees above normal. The weather station in Dothan recorded the first temperature above the century mark for the year. Daytime highs ranged from 91 degrees in Cullman and Sand Mountain to 100 degrees in Dothan. Overnight lows varied between 60 degrees in Hamilton and Talladega to 73 degrees in Dothan.
Rainfall was scattered across the state. Several areas did not receive any moisture, while Thorsby and Pinson received 2.18 and 2.03 inches, respectively.
Winter wheat harvest progressed well during the past week. Donald E. Mann, county executive director in the Jackson County FSA office, reported that wheat harvest began during the middle part of the week, and would be in full swing by this week.
Yields were promising. Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent located in Autauga County, indicated that wheat harvest in the area was about 50 percent complete with average yields reported in the 70 bushel per acre range.
Olin F. Farrior, county Extension coordinator in Escambia County, added that wheat harvest was moving ahead rapidly.
Hot, dry weather conditions put most of the state’s corn crop under stress. Leonard Kuykendall noted that corn in fields around Autauga County has rolled up, and was at a critical point in its need for moisture.
Just over 60 percent of the cotton in the state was reported in good to excellent condition. Producers were busy making herbicide and fertilizer applications to their crop.
Nearly 90 percent of Alabama’s soybean crop was in good to excellent condition during the past week. Soybean planting progressed well, but remained well behind last year and slightly behind the five-year average. Most of the remaining soybean acreage that will be planted will follow the harvest of winter wheat.
This year’s peanut crop was off to a mediocre start, with most stands reported in fair condition. Producers spent the week applying fungicides and herbicides to their crops.
Peach growers in central Alabama discovered hail damage to trees and on fruit in some orchards in the wake of the strong thunderstorms from a week ago. Bobby Boozer, research horticulturist at the Chilton Research and Extension Center, stated that damaged fruit that is near maturity can quickly develop fungal infections. Producers were encouraged to make “kickback” fungicide applications within 24 hours of the damage occurring to provide protection and control of disease. Green fruit were less affected, and any damage was expected to heal over within four to seven days.
Bruce West, county executive director in the Mobile County FSA office, mentioned that fruits and vegetables in the area were in need of rain. Irrigated vegetable crops were in good condition, but non-irrigated crops showed signs of drought stress.
With little or no rainfall received during the past week, pastures deteriorated slightly, but remained in mostly good to excellent condition. Donna L. Senn, county executive director in the Barbour County FSA office, added that conditions were extremely dry in the county, and producers were providing supplemental feeds to their livestock.
Alex Brand, county executive director in the Wilcox County FSA office, noted that producers were busy harvesting what hay was available, but most of the crop was winter grass mixed with very little summer growth. The state’s livestock were reported in mostly good to excellent condition during the past week.
Most locations throughout the state received less than half an inch of rain last week. Hernando, Hillsborough, and Baker counties each reported 0.59 inches of rain. Live Oak, Sebring, and Palmdale received 1.2, 1.28, and 3.02 inches, respectively. High temperatures ranged from the upper 80s to 90s, with Umatilla hitting 101 degrees. Lows were in the 60s and 70s.
For the week ending June 8, peanuts were 93 percent planted. Last year at this time, peanuts were 77 percent planted. Potato digging continued in St. Johns County. Scattered showers in the southern Peninsula were greatly appreciated.
However, crops in Indian River County were suffering due to afternoon wilting. Many growers from the Panhandle to the central Peninsula irrigated crops to compensate for dry conditions. Drought and hot temperatures in Santa Rosa County were reported as producing severe conditions for cotton.
Wheat harvesting continued in Santa Rosa County. The Big Bend and central Peninsula reported very short soil moisture. The Panhandle and southern Peninsula soil moisture levels were reported as short.
Cantaloupe and watermelon harvests slowed seasonally in St. Johns County. Harvesting of avocadoes began. Sweet corn season wound down in the southern Peninsula. Growers were all but finished harvesting eggplant and peppers. Producers marketed avocados, cantaloupe, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, and watermelon during the week.
The state’s pasture condition decreased last week due to drought. In the Panhandle and northern areas, pasture condition was very poor to good, with most in poor condition. Hot and windy conditions increased the impact of the drought. Cattle were fed supplemental hay. Cattle condition was poor to fair.
In the central areas, pasture condition was very poor to good, with most in very poor to poor condition. Drought conditions have become extreme. Some cattlemen are completely out of hay. Cattle condition was very poor to good.
In the southwestern areas, pasture was in very poor to good condition. However, some rain and showers fell in Desoto, Hendry, and other southwest counties. Statewide, cattle condition was mostly poor to fair.
Citrus producing areas continued to experience the hot and dry weather pattern of the last few weeks. Temperatures ranged from the mid 60s to the mid to upper 90s in all citrus areas. Rainfall was sparse except for isolated but strong storms in several areas.
Thunderstorms popped up in many areas as afternoon temperatures reached the upper 90s but rainfall was limited. With the continued and extensive use of irrigation, most trees looked good with heavy foliage and healthy new fruit.
Hedging and topping continued into the latter part of the citrus season. Other production activities included irrigating, spraying, mowing, and brush removal.
Growers combated greening by removing trees and attempting to control the psyllids with pesticides.
Valencia harvest dropped below the six million box weekly amount as hot temperatures slowed harvest. Availability of fruit remaining to be harvested decreased with softness of some fruit reported because of the dry and hot weather. Some processing plants plan to run Valencia oranges into the second week of July. Grapefruit utilization was declining rapidly. Honey tangerine harvest neared completion as packing houses closed for the season.
Hot weather has greatly reduced soil moisture, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Daily average high temperatures fluctuated between the upper and lower 90s. Average lows were in the 60s most of week. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 34 percent very short, 44 percent short, 21 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.
The dry, hot weather has resulted in an increase of stress on crops. The heat and lack of rain has severely affected dryland corn, pasture and hayfields. The dry weather has caused farmers to irrigate. Wheat harvest continued. Grass for cattle has decreased.
Other activities included spraying corn, tobacco and cotton for insects.
County Extension Agents reported an average of 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork.
District 1 — Northwest
“This week has been extremely hot, into the 90s every day, and very dry.”
District 2 — North Central
“Very dry! Hope we receive afternoon thunderstorms predicted for this week. Many hay fields cut this week, remaining wheat cut for spring silage. Continued hot weather greatly reduced soil moisture, rain needed badly!”
District 4 — West Central
“Extreme heat took it's toll especially late last week; no rainfall. Soil moisture is absent. Wheat harvest is finished with a good yield. Some fescue hay has been rolled and fields are slow to recover. Bermudagrass is seeding out already and what bermuda gets cut is burning up due to dry conditions. Waiting on a rain and soil moisture for millet plantings.”
District 5 — Central
“Very hot and no rain! High temperatures in the mid to high 90s this week. Wheat harvesting under way. Some hay producers harvesting hay. Crops, pastures and hay fields need rain. We are in what can best be described as a major drought. We haven't received any rainfall over the past seven days and we aren't likely to get any if the current forecasts hold up. We are under a burn ban and we should begin to see signs of stress in the crops that have been planted. We may be severely impacted in terms of hay and pasture availability if things don't change. Dry, extremely hot weather has set in abruptly. Conditions are going to get bad quickly as there are no prospects of relief in sight. Please send rain!”
District 6 — East Central
“Very hot and very dry. Dryland corn suffering and yield potential will be greatly reduced without rain in the next 5-7 days. Wheat harvest progressing with very good overall yields. Growers scratching their heads about planting behind wheat without irrigation. Grass for cattle going downhill already and haven't seen much hay cut so far. Thrips attacking slow growing peanuts and cotton with some acres being sprayed. It could be a long, hot, dry summer.”
District 7 — Southwest
“Scattered showers brought relief to portions of the county. Heat and drought severely hurting dryland corn, pasture and hay fields that did not receive rain. Need rain to plant dryland crops following wheat. Our soils are starting to dry out.
District 8 — South Central
“Dry, dry, dry. Irrigation of corn and tobacco and some fields to help germinate seed. Insect problems on tobacco and cotton. Thrips pressure is bad with cutworms and grasshoppers. TSWV in tobacco is increasing, but still below average for most years. Applying nitrogen to tobacco and corn. Wrapping up planting crops behind small grains. Wheat harvest almost complete and yields are pretty good so far.