Rainfall has become much more abundant across the Southeast over the last several weeks and area crops have responded.

The various USDA NASS state field offices are reporting much improved conditions for areas fortunate enough to have received the showers.

Welcome news for the week ended July 15 included the improvement in pastures and rangeland in Alabama and Georgia. This has taken some of the pressure off cattlemen as they have been desperately seeking feed supplies for their herds. Still, forage supplies remain very short in the region.

Here’s a look at the situation as reported by the state NASS field offices for the week ended July 15.

Florida

Rainfall during the week of July 9 through July 15 aided crop growth in many Panhandle and northern Peninsula areas. Rainfall totaled from a tenth inch or less in Ft. Pierce, Avalon, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Monticello, to about three inches or more in Frostproof, Pierson, Sebring, and Lake Alfred.

Temperatures remained hot with the daily averages in the major cities one to three degrees above normal. Daytime highs were in the 90s while nighttime lows were mostly in the 70s and 80s.

Many localities recorded at least one low in the upper 60s.

Due to the scattered nature of the rainfall, many areas remain dry. Most of the recent rainfall in Jefferson County fell in southern areas and skipped the agriculture-producing areas in northern parts of the county.

Despite recent rains, Lake Okeechobee remains low at just over 9 feet.

The Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry reported a total of 116 active wildfires affecting 93,555,100 acres as of July 15, 2007.

Peanuts in some parts of Jackson County are in good condition due to recent rains with yield prospects average.

Peanut condition was rated 5 percent very poor, 15 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 32 percednt good, and 15 pecent excellent. The digging of green peanuts started in Marion County n Santa Rosa County.

In Santa Rosa County, some cotton showed uneven stands due to delayed emergence caused by earlier dry conditions and the oldest cotton is blooming.

In Gadsden County, some corn yields are expected to be about 95 percent of normal and most hay needs soaking rains to ensure proper growth for a first cut. Growers have not made first cuts of hay in Jefferson County due to the slow growth caused by the dry weather.

Rains replenished soil moisture in scattered areas of the Panhandle, the northern and central Peninsula, and some parts of the southern Peninsula. Soil moisture ratings were very short to short for the Panhandle, Big Bend, and northern Peninsula areas, and short to adequate for the central and southern Peninsula.

A few spots of surplus moisture exist in localities recently receiving copious rainfall, such as some parts of Hernando County.

Tomato picking is virtually finished in the Quincy area. Okra harvesting remained active in Dade County. Watermelon harvesting is nearly finished in the Panhandle and northern Peninsula.

Georgia

Thunderstorms throughout the week helped further reduce drought conditions, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office.

High temperatures averaged from the mid-80s to the low 90s. Average lows were in the upper 60s and lower 70s.

Rainfall averaged 1.32 inches this past week. Topsoil moisture conditions were rated at 15 percent very short, 37 percent short, 47 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

There has been a noticeable improvement in soil moisture conditions in recent weeks.

Pastures and hayfields continued to recover from the drought. Still, hay was in short supply as livestock producers continued supplemental feeding.

Insect pressure was light.

Soybean planting was finishing up as the tobacco harvest was becoming more active. Other activities included cutting hay and feeding hay to cattle.

County Extension Agents reported an average of 5.5 days suitable for fieldwork.

Alabama

The drought conditions in Alabama, as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor, improved after a third consecutive week of rainfall. The amount of land classified as suffering from exceptional drought conditions was 24.6 percent, an improvement of 17.3 percent from the previous week. Numerous counties across the state indicated they received some much needed rainfall, and that pastures and hayfields greened up.

Chuck Browne, Lee County Extension agent, noted that erratic rainfall somewhat eased the drought situation, but marginally healthy trees in Lee County showed signs of stress, while lawns, pastures and hayfields greened back up.

Average temperatures for the past week ranged from 3 degrees below to 4 degrees above normal. Daytime highs varied from 86 degrees in Sand Mountain to 96 degrees in Headland.

Overnight lows ranged from 61 degrees in Bridgeport to 71 degrees in Marion Junction, Montgomery, and Dothan.

All weather stations reported receiving some rainfall over the past week. Thomasville recorded the least at 0.27 inches in one day, while Russellville totaled the most at 3.92 inches over a 4 day period. The year-to-date total at all weather stations remained below normal, with Cullman and Thorsby still more than 20 inches below normal for the year.

Even with the recent rain showers, the majority of the state’s corn crop has already suffered irreparable damage and was not expected to perk up. However, some late-planted corn fields started to show signs of improvement.

Most of Alabama’s soybean crop was reported in very poor to poor condition during the past week, but showed improvement as only 66 percent fell into these categories compared with 79 percent last week.

James D. Jones, Henry County Extension agent, added that the soybean crop in the county was doing better, but more rainfall is needed to help the skippy stands catch up where emergence was still occurring.

The majority of the state’s cotton crop stayed in very poor or poor condition during the past week, but showed improvement as only 55 percent was rated in these categories compared to 68 percent a week ago.

William Birdsong, Extension agronomist at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center, reported that cotton in the area is in three stages: a good stand with good potential, skippy stands leaving producers undecided about what to do with their crop, or very young cotton.

Willie E. Datcher, Greene County Extension agent, mentioned that the cotton in the county began to show signs of growth after the week’s rainfall.

Peanut crops showed progress during the past week, as 29 percent have reached the pegged stage.

Alabama’s fruit and nut crops continued to fight against sporadic weather conditions in order to turn out a marketable product for growers.

Monte Nesbitt, Research horticulturist at the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center, stated that the weather in the area has been “normal,” with frequent afternoon thunderstorms.

Disease pressure increased on all fruit and nut crops due to the high humidity and temperature levels. Scab severity on pecans was on the rise.

Growers were encouraged to shorten the interval between fungicide cover sprays. Powdery mildew has been light so far this season.

The Satsuma crop looked good, and no signs of rust mite injury have been reported. Greasy spot fungus on citrus fruits and fruit rot on muscadines and blackberries increased, and needed to be controlled with sprays.

Major progress was made to the range and pasture condition during the past week. After three weeks of rainfall, only 68 percent of Alabama pastures were reported in very poor or poor condition. Hayfields greened up, and producers expect to get a decent cutting of hay if the weather pattern holds. Livestock showed some improvement, as a more nutritious food source was available.

Tennessee

Scattered showers, thunderstorms, and cooler temperatures during the past week helped boost crop and pasture conditions in many areas of the state.

A more general rain will be needed, however, for conditions to rebound from the prolonged hot, dry weather.

Some areas received substantial amounts of precipitation last week, while others were relatively dry.

Almost the entire corn crop has entered the silking stage with a third in the dough stage. Cotton and soybean development was still ahead of their 5-year average pace, and continued to improve in condition. Tobacco producers were busy this past week scouting fields, topping, and applying sucker control. Black Shank has shown up is many tobacco fields in Robertson County with tomato spotted wilt virus also more severe than in previous years.

Tomato and vegetable harvest was in full swing.

Pastures continued to suffer from a lack of moisture with two-thirds rated in very poor-to-poor condition. Other activities around the state included applying pesticides and marketing cattle.

There were 6 days considered suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture levels were rated 31 percent very short, 38 percent short, and 31 percent adequate. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 43 percent very short, 38 percent short, and 19 percent adequate.

Both temperatures and rainfall across the state averaged below normal last week. The only exception was in the southwest portion of the state, which averaged above normal rainfall.

County agent comments:

"The farmers in Fayette County have received much needed rain for another week after many weeks of drought. More rain is needed, but cotton and beans look good for the most part. The corn looks better and if we continue to get these showers, the forage crops will look better. Bugs are light at this time and we are looking for soybean rust and other diseases." Jeffery D. Via, Fayette County

"Pastures are very short. Some beef producers are already feeding a short hay supply. Local sale barn has had large sales for the last 4 weeks, 1,700 this week. The early planted corn yields could be off 40 percent-50 percent of their potential. Soybeans, Group IV and Group V, still have a fair to good yield potential. Group III soybeans without rainfall soon could be disastrous. This year is looking more like the 1999 and 2000 crop years." Marcus McLemore, Hardin County

"Livestock producers continue to reduce and liquidate herds, seek alternate water sources, and buy hay from other areas." David Qualls, Lincoln County

"We have had some showers in parts of the county and I have seen some hay fields with johnsongrass and crabgrass actually growing. Our corn is mostly too far along for rain to help, but where the rain has hit, soybeans are looking better. Pastures are picking up some, but hay is the shortest I've seen in the 30 years I've been here." Larry Moorehead, Moore County

"Showers have brought some relief to pastures and row crops. Steady rainfall is needed, due to crucial life stages for most row crops. Cattle producers are still liquidating due to a diminishing water supply and a lack of feed supply." Anthony M. Shelton, Washington County

Virginia

Scattered showers continued to help some areas while other locations remained dry. Days suitable for work were 6.5. Topsoil moisture was generally very short.

Pastures and hayfields are continuing to show signs of stress with minimal growth occurring. Livestock producers are being faced with the task of finding supplemental feed sources as hay supplies lessen.

Corn continues to tassel and silk in most areas. Concern is beginning to develop as dry conditions and high temperatures reach levels that could potentially affect pollination.

Full season soybeans remain green and healthy as double-cropped soybeans suffer from the dry conditions; lack of germination and emergence has been reported in some areas.

Tobacco producers continue topping their crop with pulling also occurring in some areas. Cotton and peanuts are growing at reduced rates due to dry conditions.

Vegetable producers continue to irrigate where possible. Cantaloupes, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, and potatoes continue to be harvested.

Other activities this week include replanting soybeans, spraying soybeans, making hay, crop scouting, and peanut cultivating.

North Carolina

Scattered showers were experienced throughout the state with most stations reporting one inch of rain or more.

There were 5.8 days suitable for field work compared to 6.3 from the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 23 percent very short, 43 percent short, 32 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included harvesting peaches, hay, and Irish potatoes as well as scouting for pest and disease problems.

South Carolina

Much of South Carolina’s rain came from scattered thunderstorms just as it has in the several preceding weeks. Most of the state did receive some measure of precipitation, but there were still locations that have had the misfortune of remaining dry for an extended period of time.

Crop conditions varied on some crops from very poor to excellent, depending on how much moisture had been available for plant development.

Soils for the week were rated at 18 percent very short, 46 percent short, 35 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus. There was a statewide average of 6.3 days suitable for field work.

The corn condition was 1 percent very poor, 20 percent poor, 41 percent fair, 34 percent good, and 4 percent excellent.

The cotton condition was 8 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 57 percent good, and 6 percent excellent.

Peanuts were 64 percent pegged by the end of the week. The crop was in fair to mostly good condition.

The soybean crop continued to grow and was rated at poor to mostly good.

Tobacco harvest has begun. The crop has continued to improve each week. Conditions were rated at 4 percent poor, 23 percent fair, 55 percent good, and 18 percent excellent. Oat and winter wheat harvests have come to a close for this year.

The livestock condition was still fair to good. Pasture conditions were like most crops dependent on where the rain fell.

Peach harvest for what it has been is still ongoing. The crop continued to be in mostly very poor condition. Apple conditions remained at 40 percent very poor, 35 percent poor, and 25 percent fair.