In stark contrast to 2007, heavy rainfall across the Southeast last week forced corn planters back under the shed and halted land preparation for other crops.

The moisture was more than welcome across the drought-stricken region and growers didn’t seem to mind the planting delay.

The large wheat crop continued to show promise.

Here’s how the various state USDA, NASS field offices reported area conditions for the week ending April 6.

Alabama

Alabama producers began the 2008 crop season faced with higher input costs for fertilizer and fuel combined with volatile feed prices and market conditions, all while trying to recover from devastating drought conditions that wreaked havoc on many farmers and ranchers last year.

The exceptional drought conditions that lingered throughout last year have been alleviated by timely rainfall so far this year. However, extreme hydrological drought conditions persist, encompassing nearly 34 percent of the state from central to north-eastern Alabama, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released for April 1, 2008.

Temperatures for the state were abnormally warm for this time of year at all reporting weather stations, and reached as many as 7 degrees above normal in Pinson and Brewton. Daytime highs of 87 degrees were recorded in Eufaula, Geneva, and Dothan.

Precipitation was abundant towards the end of the week, as a storm system dropped upwards of eight inches of rainfall in the Mobile area.

Moisture totals ranged from 1.18 inches in Sand Mountain to 8.69 inches in Mobile. Year-to-date precipitation totals were behind for many areas, even with the frequent rain showers that have moved across the state.

The weather station in Gadsden was nearly 7.5 inches below normal.

Charles Burmester, Extension agronomist at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center, indicated the wheat crop in northern Alabama was in excellent condition. Producers were busy with fertilizer applications, as well as fungicide applications to treat the powdery mildew contamination in some wheat stands due to the recent moisture received in many areas of the state.

Alex Brand, county executive director in the Wilcox County FSA office, reported the wheat in the area looked good, and the majority of producers were planning on following their wheat crop with soybeans, or possibly cotton.

Thomas D. Atkinson, county executive director in the Madison County FSA office, stated that corn planting was approximately one week behind due to the wet spring.

Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent located in Autauga County, noted that burn-down herbicides were being applied to fields in preparation for cotton, corn, and soybean planting. Some producers had begun planting their corn fields, while others were busy with tillage operations.

Brand added that producers in the Wilcox County area were not planting corn because of the high cost of fertilizer.

Fruit producers across the state battled a cold front and freezing temperatures at the end of March that damaged peach trees already in full bloom. Bobby Boozer, research horticulturist at the Chilton Research and Extension Center, reported flower damage ranged from 5 to 90 percent depending on the orchard’s location.

However, the outlook for this year’s crop potential was still good.

Insect pressure from plum curculio was low. Early season management was recommended as alternate row insecticide applications.

Dawn Hoagland, county executive director in the Blount County FSA office, added that the strawberry crop looked good, and several U-Pick operations would be opened soon. Some plum varieties were destroyed by the freezing temperatures in late March.

Vegetable growers were busy laying plastic in preparation for spring planting.

Henry Dorough, regional Extension agent located in Talladega County, mentioned pasture conditions improved with the recent rainfall, but most producers continued to feed supplements to their herds.

Brenda Glover, regional Extension agent located in Hale County, indicated pasture grass in the west-central area of the state was growing well with warmer temperatures and adequate rainfall received during the past few weeks.

Kenneth Kelly, regional Extension agent located in Mobile County, stated winter annuals and clover in southwestern Alabama were in fair to good condition.

Florida

Daytime temperatures were mostly in the 80s and upper 70s, with Sebring and Umatilla reaching the 90s at least one day last week. The average temperatures reported in the major cities were 5 to 6 degrees above normal. Lows for the week were mostly in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. However, MacClenny in Baker County reported a minimum temperature of 43 degrees.

All locations received over an inch of rain for the week; with large quantities of 4.52, 4.91, and 5.62 inches in Polk, Santa Rosa, and Gadsden counties, respectively. A majority of the rain came towards the end of the week.

Many growers at the start of the week of March 31 described fields as dry and dusty, but by the end of the week, growers were thankful for the rains. In Jefferson County, much of the corn has been planted, while Washington County reported 85 percent of corn was up and the rest was expected to be planted next week.

Suwannee County producers were planting corn as well.

Potato growers in St. Johns County killed vines of early planted potatoes in preparation for harvest.

The first hay of the season was being baled in Suwannee County.

The significant rains received throughout the week elevated soil moisture supplies. The increase was more noticeable in the central and southern Peninsula areas, which reported mostly adequate to surplus levels. Soil moisture supplies in the Panhandle were short to mostly adequate. Areas throughout the Big Bend had adequate supplies.

Vegetable planting and harvesting continued. Most watermelons have been seeded or transplanted in Jefferson County as growers in Immokalee began early harvesting.

In St. Augustine, sweet onions were being harvested. Most cabbage growers in St. Johns County were wrapping up the harvesting season. Producers marketed snap beans, celery, cabbage, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, okra, peas, peppers, radishes, squash, and tomatoes during the week.

Georgia

Georgia experienced cloudy, wet weather and erratic temperatures during the week ended April 6, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Daily average high temperatures fluctuated between the mid-60s and low 80s. Average lows were in the 50s most of the week.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 1 percent very short, 16 percent short, 67 percent adequate, and 16 percent surplus.

Rains last week delayed producers preparing land for peanuts and cotton.

Corn planting was also behind schedule.

The cool, damp weather during the week was hard on wheat and the crop needed sunshine to remain in good condition. No disease has been reported, but farmers planned to spray to prevent any future occurrence.

Other activities included preparing fields and equipment for planting, applying poultry litter, planting corn and vegetables, clipping and spraying tobacco plants in greenhouses, applying lime and fertilizer to pastures and hayfields, hay feeding for livestock, and the routine care of poultry and livestock.

County Extension agents reported an average of 4.9 days suitable for fieldwork.

Tennessee

Heavy rains across many areas of Tennessee last week helped boost soil moisture supplies, recharge pastures, and re-fill stock ponds.

However, many row crop farmers are hoping for drier conditions in order to catch-up on their field activities.

Corn planting has just begun, well behind last year's rapid pace and the 5-year average. The state's corn producers hope to begin planting in earnest this week as weather permits.

Winter wheat was developing slightly behind the normal pace and the crop was rated in mostly good-to-excellent condition. Winter wheat, as well as apples and peaches, were generally unscathed by the winter weather, with no major damage having been reported.

Cattle and pastures were rated in mostly good-to-fair condition, with farmers optimistic for an improved hay crop.

Other field activities last week included applying fertilizer and herbicides to pasture and hay fields and preparing machinery for planting.

There were 2 days suitable for fieldwork last week.

As of Friday, April 4, topsoil moisture levels were rated 3 percent short, 45 percent adequate, and 52 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 6 percent very short, 9 percent short, 57 percent adequate, and 28 percent surplus.

Temperatures averaged above normal across eastern Tennessee and the Plateau and slightly below normal elsewhere. Precipitation averaged well above normal across the state.

County Agent Comments

"The farmers in Fayette County were not able to do any field work this week due to the wet conditions. Corn planting will be in full force when conditions allow. The wheat looks good with few insects." Jeff D. Via, Fayette County

"Over five inches of rain since last Friday has left the ground saturated. No field work was possible this week. All wheat and pastures have been fertilized and they are green and growing with this rain." Rick Ritter, Perry County

"April has started wet, which will slow corn planting, but is good for ground water levels as well as pond, creek and lake levels. Hay stocks are almost depleted but pastures are starting to produce more and more forage. Cow herds are slightly thinner than usual but overall close to typical. Fall seeded annuals have helped in this regard and many farmers are anticipating a spring cutting of wheat hay. Hay crop looks typical for the time of year. Less fertilizer than usual is expected to be applied to hay and pastures due to fertilizer prices. Forage supply is expected to be tight again this year." Richard Groce, Maury County

"The area has received some good rains during the past week — no flooding. This is helping restore soil moisture reserves, particularly the top soil. Wheat is off to an excellent start for the time of the year. Producers are eager to start planting corn as weather conditions will permit. Hay and pasture fields are beginning to make some growth, however significant damage remains from the 2007 drought." Bob Sliger, Monroe County

"Rainfall continues to fall which is a blessing for many producers. However, continual cloud coverage is expected to affect strawberry quality." Jerry Lamb, Rhea County

Kentucky

The first week of April consisted of gradually rising temperatures and periods of heavy rain. Wet conditions hampered prospective fieldwork throughout the week and caused flooding in some areas. Temperatures averaged 52 degrees, normal for this time of year.

Total precipitation for the week was 3.46 inches, which was 2.44 inches above normal. Topsoil moisture was rated as 1 percent short, 25 percent adequate, and 74 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 2 percent short, 39 percent adequate, and 59 percent surplus. There were 1.5 days suitable for fieldwork. The main farming activity for the week was tobacco seeding as the weather did not permit other tasks.

Tobacco: As of April 6, plant bed and greenhouse seeding was 73 percent complete. This was 4 percent below the previous year but 2 percent above the five year average. Emergence of transplants reached 38 percent, down 2 percent from last year but equal to the 5 year average.

Corn: Corn planting progress was adversely affected by the wet weather with 1 percent of intended acreage in the ground. This was down 21 percent from the previous year and down 11 percent from the 5 year average.

Small grains: The average height for winter wheat was 10 inches. Winter wheat condition was rated 3 percent poor, 17 percent fair, 57 percent good, and 23 percent excellent. Barley condition was 3 percent poor, 8 percent fair, 53 percent good, and 36 percent excellent.

Other crops and pasture: Early fruit crops are in relatively good shape with no freeze damage.

Due to wet weather, first cutting of alfalfa has been delayed. Pasture condition was 11 percent very poor, 29 percent poor, 35 percent fair, 22 percent good, and 3 percent excellent.

Virginia

Rain showers throughout the Commonwealth were welcomed by farmers this past week. The rain improved winter wheat, barley, and pasture conditions.

Days suitable for field work were 3.9.

In some parts of the state, corn planting was well under way, while other parts of the state had not yet started.

As hay stocks ran short, cattle producers were anxious for pastures to green up.

Grain producers reduced use of fertilizer, lime, and litter applications due to expensive cost.

Other farm activities this past week included tending greenhouse vegetables, attending production meetings, top-dressing wheat with nitrogen, and applying fungicides.

North Carolina

North Carolina welcomed the rain during the past week with all stations reporting over one inch of rain and the most precipitation recorded in Jacksonville. Most stations reported temperatures below normal for the week with average temperatures ranging from 45 to 65 degrees.

There were 3.7 days suitable for field work, compared to 5.6 the previous week.

Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 1 percent very short, 7 percent short, 70 percent adequate and 22 percent surplus. Activities during the week included the planting of Irish potatoes and cabbage, spreading of fertilizer, and other spring planting preparations.

South Carolina

South Carolina had a week of rainy weather for the first time in recent memory. Most of the state received an inch or more of precipitation last week improving surface water conditions substantially. Some areas became too wet to take equipment into the fields.

Soil moisture was 1 percent very short, 8 percent short, 79 percent adequate, and 12 percent surplus.

Showers slowed planting, as there was a statewide average of only 4.1 days suitable for field work.

Corn planting was ahead of the previous week, but slowed from the rain, and is now at the five-year average. Corn improved, and the newly planted crop was in mostly good condition.

Oat heading was ahead of schedule, and the crop was also in mostly good condition.

Although tobacco transplanting was ahead of average for this time in the season, there were growers that have not yet begun because of wet ground.

Winter wheat continues to look good.

Livestock conditions were little changed from the previous week, remaining mostly good. Pastures were still greening-up and have plenty of moisture for good growth.

Peaches appeared to have mostly survived the frost, as it was earlier and milder than last year’s late freeze.

Vegetable planting continues, but like other crops was hindered by the week’s weather. Conditions range from fair to good.