After a cool, wet spring in many areas of the lower Southeast, growers who wished for warmer, drier planting weather might have gotten more than they hoped for as scorching temperatures and mostly dry conditions settled in during mid- to late-June.
Weather experts say the drought has officially ended in most Southeastern states, except for maybe a small northeast corner of North Carolina. Thanks to one of the wettest springs in Georgia's history, the drought that has gripped that state for three years has ended, says David Stooksbury, state climatologist.
March through May was the second wettest spring out of the past 115 in Georgia, he says. “The vast majority of the state has been climatological drought-free since March. The exception has been the Lake Lanier and Lake Hartwell basins. Conditions in these basins have continued to improve over the past few months,” says Stooksbury.
Proper drought management requires a period of recharge of the hydrologic systems after the end of the climatological drought, he adds. “Soil moisture and stream flows across the state were normal to much above normal for the middle of June,” he says.
But during the latter part of June, hot, dry weather conditions returned to many parts of the region, with temperatures topping out at 100 degrees F. in some locations. In Georgia, soil moisture was rated at 3 percent very short, 37 percent short, 56 percent adequate, and 4 percent surplus in late June.
The state's weather service reported that high temperatures and dry conditions had begun to stress crops, causing producers to irrigate. Cotton was being sprayed for weeds and many farmers had finished late planting. Some tobacco fields were not in good condition, and northern corn leaf blight was beginning to show up in some corn fields. Watermelon and cantaloupe harvest was in full swing in Georgia.
In Alabama, producers also witnessed a drying out period across the state as hot and humid weather reappeared. The U.S. Drought Monitor showed the state to be 100 percent free from drought as rain fell throughout the mid-Atlantic and down through the state of Alabama. The drought conditions were in comparison to 16.9 percent of drought a year ago, and 27.3 percent three months ago.
Daytime highs in Alabama ranged from 93 degrees F. in Gadsden to a blistering 102 degrees F. in Dothan. Wheat harvesting continued to look good across the state, producing adequate yields. Shane Seay, county Extension director for Limestone County, reported that the wheat harvest continued as weather allowed. Yields were fair and condition was okay considering wet weather during the spring.
Donald Mann, county Extension director for Jackson County, says the wheat harvest was progressing very well with yields running in the 50-bushel range.
Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent for Autauga County, added that the dry weather conditions allowed for adequate fieldwork with wheat harvesting.
Dennis Delaney, Auburn University Extension soybean specialist, says soybean growers have been busy catching up on planting as well as re-planting where heavy rains prevented establishing a stand. Some early planted soybeans were blooming and setting pods, while others were still being planted.
Rain-delayed wheat harvest was slowing the planting of double-cropped soybeans, but growers were planting as soon as possible to avoid yield reductions and loss of soil moisture. Soybean rust had been found in Mobile, Washington and Baldwin counties, while there had been sporadic reports of three-cornered alfalfa hopper damage as well.
Kuykendall reported that herbicide applications and side-dressing were being applied to cotton. Corn has held up to the heat better than expected with the good subsoil moisture, however, it was expected to twist with hot temperatures in the forecast.
Kris Balkcom, Auburn University Extension peanut specialist, reported the dry spring cycle that had occurred in recent years had finally been broken. Even though the wet spring put producers further behind than during previous dry springs, everyone was pleased with the moisture at planting.
Meanwhile, in Florida, peanut planting during late June was 99 percent complete and 12 percent pegged. The condition of peanuts was rated 18 percent fair, 63 percent good and 19 percent excellent. Growers applied herbicides and fungicides while non-irrigated peanuts and corn suffered from hot, dry conditions.
Growers in Santa Rosa County reported that early planted cotton had begun squaring and hay was being baled in Pasco and Columbia counties.
Also in Florida, okra, cucumbers, lychees and mangoes moved through the market. In the Suwannee Valley, producers harvested organic peppers and eggplants, and harvesting of tomatoes was mostly complete in central and southern Florida. In the Panhandle, tomatoes looked good and picking increased. Some blueberry rot was reported in Duval County and light watermelon harvest took place as the crop seasonally decreased. Lake County watermelon growers reported some losses due to rain.
Sweet corn was being harvested in Columbia County and avocado harvest began to pick up as the season got under way. Some growers in Lee County prepared land for late summer planting while heavy rains in Miami-Dade County caused some crop damage and many fields remained saturated.
In the Panhandle and other northern areas of Florida, pasture condition was poor to excellent with most fair to good. Dry conditions had begun to slow grass growth, but cattle condition was mostly good. However, temperatures in the upper 90s to 102 degrees F. stressed pastures and livestock.