Early fall, late summer days mean field days. On the road this year has meant a hit and miss with rain. There was the downpour in the Blacklands of North Carolina. The rain left as quickly as it came. It also has seemed to get cooler, quicker this fall.

This year, hurricanes seemed to line up to take a swipe at the Southeast in August and September. Lives were lost in the storms. The terrible wrath of three back-to-back hurricanes hit the area hard, causing destruction to property, people and crops.

But heat units in May had crops ahead of schedule. “We have a good-looking crop, but we're in a phase where it's susceptible to boll rot and hard lock with all the rain,” said Keith Edmisten, North Carolina State University Extension cotton specialist. “It would be nice to have some sunshine.”

Sunshine broke open in North Carolina around mid-September, giving a brief respite to the rainy weather while more storms brewed in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

In South Carolina, the cotton crop was just waiting to get out of the field, says Mike Jones, Clemson University Extension cotton specialist. “A lot of folks are scared to death because of the storm. If we're not losing quality, we're losing yield.” Some parts of South Carolina had more than 14 inches of rain in August. At mid-September, they had had 4.5 inches with another hurricane on the way. Jones was concerned that the excessive moisture would cause problems with boll rot, which lowers cotton quality.

In peanuts, Jay Chapin, Clemson University Extension peanut specialist, said the crop has excellent yield potential. The same report from other states. The issue was, “How much rain would fall?” Chapin reports troubles with late leafspot this season. The occurrence could bring about changes in recommendations.

In the upper Southeast, a new way of determining the optimal time to harvest is getting a good workout this harvest season. Jay Williams, a University of Georgia Extension ag engineer, developed the system using a pressure washer.

Despite all the rain falling in South Carolina, Richard Rentz of Bamberg County was in a dry spot this year. It could affect yields. Rain does not always fall uniformly. He's one of the “old timers” in South Carolina peanut production, having grown the crop for 10 years in rotation with cotton.

Traveling and meeting folks is probably the best part of any job, especially this one. It's one of the best ways to get a handle on what's going on. The names of the towns are always fascinating. I owe a “Thank you” to the nice folks at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center shop near Florence, S.C., for helping me change a slow-leaking tire.

Traveling back to North Carolina, I went through North, S.C. It took a while to get the bearings on that one, so I stopped and read the historical marker.

I always know I'm getting close to home on the North Carolina coast when I pass through Safe, N.C.

On the radio, I hear Willie Nelson speaking at Farm Aid. Finally, we can agree on something other than his music. He's advocating more production of ethanol and alternative fuels — and we're still paying way too much for gasoline.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com