Unusually cool weather brought light frost to areas of the Southeast during the week ended April 20, but unlike 2007 most observers expected little damage to field crops, vegetables and fruit trees.

The main emphasis for the week continued to be corn planting, with field preparation under way for other major crops.

Here’s how the USDA NASS state offices from around the region reported the situation.

Alabama

A late-season cold front brought abnormally cool temperatures and a light frost to most areas across the state during the early part of the past week. The state’s crops suffered only minor damage, and were expected to recover.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor released for April 15, 2008, the extreme hydrological drought conditions that continued to linger from last year were reduced to encompass only 16.5 percent of the state.

Temperatures recorded during the past week were well below normal for this time of year. The average temperature at the weather station in Highland Home was 14 degrees below normal.

Daytime highs ranged from a pleasant 74 degrees in Sand Mountain to 80 degrees in Hamilton, Geneva, and Dothan.

Overnight lows dipped well below freezing in parts of District 10. Hamilton, which recorded one of the warmest temperatures, also experienced the state’s lowest temperature at 26 degrees.

All reporting weather stations received some rainfall during the past week. Accumulations ranged from 0.14 inches in Montgomery, to 1.46 inches in Hamilton. Year-to-date precipitation totals varied widely across the state.

Most of Alabama’s winter wheat was reported in good to excellent condition during the past week. Thomas D. Atkinson, county executive director in the Madison County FSA office, stated that many producers had to apply a fungicide to their crop because of the wet spring.

Warren Griffith, regional Extension agent located in Fayette County, mentioned that insect pressure from the Hessian fly was still present in some wheat fields, but the damaged caused was minimal.

Richard Petcher, regional Extension agent located in Washington County, noted that cool temperatures early during the past week only caused minor damage to the area’s crop. Growth was somewhat slowed, but a large portion of the wheat crop was heading out.

Corn producers in the north-eastern area of the state spent a large part of the past week planting their fields. Progress in that area increased by 14 percent from a week ago. Donald Mann, county executive director in the Jackson County FSA office, mentioned some producers were planning on switching some expected soybean acreage back to corn. This was attributed, in large part, to the unavailability of the desired variety of soybean seeds.

Corn planting had been slow because of wet fields and cool soil temperatures, but progress picked up this past week and is expected to be in full swing for the coming week.

Burn-down applications were applied during the past week to prepare cotton fields for planting.

Cindy Owens, county executive director in the Fayette County FSA office saidcorn acreage in the county was planted, and emergence was occurring quickly.

Cotton planting was not yet under way, but was expected to begin within the next 10 days.

Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent located in Autauga County, reported producers in the area wrapped up their corn planting, and were preparing to plant cotton during the upcoming week.

Olin F. Farrior, county Extension coordinator for Escambia County, added that the county’s corn suffered slight damage from a light frost, but was expected to recover.

Cotton producers in the county were beginning to prepare their land, and plant cotton.

Doyle Barnes and Ronald W. Davis, county executive directors in the Covington and Henry County FSA offices, both noted that cotton planting would begin during the upcoming week as warmer temperatures prevailed.

The state’s pasture and livestock condition showed signs of improvement during the past week.

Kenneth Kelly, regional Extension agent located in Mobile County, reported the cool weather slowed summer perennial growth, but the warmer weather expected during the upcoming week should stimulate bermuda and bahia grass growth. The high cost of inputs affected application rates as producers spent time fertilizing pastures.

Florida

Cool temperatures slowed plant germination and growth during the week of April 14 through April 20.

In Gadsden County, strong winds were reported as dry weather prevailed. Rainfall for the week ranged from none in most areas of the Peninsula localities to a little over an inch in Santa Rosa. Dry weather prevailed during the week and the threat of wildfire remained high in some areas. Suwannee County had a late frost at the middle of the week.

The potato harvest was under way in St Johns County with most fields reported as yielding a good crop. The cool, dry weather had most growers irrigating the later maturing crops.

In Gadsden County, spring planting continued uninterrupted.

Topsoil and subsoil moisture were mostly short to adequate across the state.

In Suwannee County, a late frost mid-week had some negative impact on vegetables.

Harvesting of spring crops continued in areas of the southern Peninsula. Light cantaloupe harvest was expected to begin in south Florida. Other vegetables and non- citrus fruit marketed during the week included snap beans, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, greens, okra, peppers, radishes, squash, tomatoes, and watermelons.

Georgia

Much of Georgia experienced sunny and cool temperatures with little to no rainfall, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office.

Daily average high temperatures fluctuated between the high-70s and low-50s. Average lows were in the 30s most of the week. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 3 percent very short, 23 percent short, 71 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus.

Despite the sunny skies, frost was reported in some areas. Soil moisture will become a serious problem for some if the rain doesn’t come. The cool temperature stressed some vegetable crops. Wheat has the potential to be a very good crop.

Other activities included cotton planting and irrigating corn. Some water shed ponds were beginning to dry up, but the spring fed ponds were maintaining their levels.

County Extension agents reported an average of 6.1 days suitable for fieldwork.

District Comments

District 1 — Northwest

A few producers in the area are trying to get some hay mowed. Believe weather should be in 80s this week. We have missed recent rains in the area. It is starting to get dry again. Water shed ponds are beginning to dry up, the spring fed ponds are still maintaining their levels.

District 2 — North Central

Sunny skies, but frost two nights this week. Frost protection required in strawberries and grape vineyards.

District 3 — Northeast

Scattered frost could've impacted certain fruit varieties this week. Soil moisture may become a serious problem if significant rain doesn't show up this week.

District 4 — West Central

Starting to turn dry. Received some rain over the weekend. Producers thinking about starting to plant cotton this week. Some producers are watering up corn.

District 5 — Central

We have gotten quite a bit of rainfall lately, yet we still are lagging behind in overall rainfall for the year. Some producers cutting and baling ryegrass hay this week. Need rain! Sounds strange to say that, but the grain crops need rain! Corn planting wrapping up.

District 6 — East Cental

Wind has dried the ground rather quickly even after all the rain we've had. Rotary hoe was needed in some fields to get a corn stand. Finishing up corn planting soon and cotton land is being prepared. More cotton will be planted this coming week. Had one frosty morning, but wheat was unaffected. Wheat crop has potential to be very good.

District 7 — Southwest

Light frost two days. Recoverable damage to tender corn and vegetables. Peanut bed preparation for planting.

District 8 — South Central

Light frost but little damage reported as of yet. Tobacco planting is in full swing. Preparing land to plant other crops and spreading poultry litter. Cool temperatures bring stress to vegetable crops. Spring planting preparation in full swing.

District 9 — Southeast

Frost damage on forages and some crops.

Soil conditions are starting to dry out again, rain will be needed, and irrigations for wheat have resumed.

Tennessee

Drier conditions towards the middle of the week ending April 20 helped Tennessee corn producers triple their planting progress from a week earlier, but progress remained about two weeks behind normal.

Most of the state's winter wheat has been top-dressed with a small fraction beginning to head. According to the state NASS office, the crop rated in mostly good-to-excellent condition. Moderate to severe flood damage occurred in counties along the Mississippi and some river bottoms.

Almost all of the peach and apple trees are budding or blooming. Little to no freeze damage was reported to fruit crops.

Strawberries were rated in fair-to-good condition, with a few reports of early harvesting.

Farmers were also fertilizing hay fields and pastures last week.

Other activities included applying pesticides, repairing equipment, and land preparations.

There were 5 days suitable for fieldwork last week. As of Friday, topsoil moisture levels were rated 7 percent short, 72 percent adequate, and 21 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 4 percent very short, 11 percent short, 66 percent adequate, and 19 percent surplus.

Temperatures averaged four to six degrees below normal across Tennessee last week, while rainfall averaged one third to one inch below normal.

County Agent Comments

"Wheat continues to progress well. I estimate probably 8,000 to 10,000 acres of wheat have been affected by flood waters. Some fields showing signs of excessive soil moisture from several days of saturated soils with water. Corn planting has begun with producers planting driest or dryer fields first. If good weather holds next week it will be very, very busy with corn planting." Tim Campbell, Dyer County

"Producers finally were able to start corn planting in earnest mid-week, but rainfall on Friday brought all fieldwork to a halt. Producers were also busy applying fertilizer to corn land, pastures and hay fields, herbicides to wheat and burn down herbicides to no-till corn land." Jeff Lannom, Weakley County

"Giles County saw an F3 tornado pass through the northern part of the county on Friday, 4-11-08, around lunch time. There were no fatalities or injuries. Several homes were damaged. Reports indicate that at least five cows and calves were killed. Several thousand feet of fence were destroyed and several barns were damaged and/or destroyed. One dairy farmer had extensive damage to his milking parlor. Corn planting is in full swing. Soil moisture is perfect for planting. Periodic rainfalls have greatly helped pastures and hay fields this spring." Kevin Rose, Giles County

"Corn planting has resumed this week with some drying conditions. Pastures in general are still slow to recover." John Wilson, Blount County

"Strawberry growers have begun to harvest some early berries and the peach, apple and blueberry crops have come through with a minimal amount of damage." Kim Frady, Bradley County

Kentucky

Precipitation and below normal temperatures continued across the Commonwealth this past week. Temperatures for the week averaged 51 degrees across the state which was 5 degrees below normal. Total precipitation for the week was 0.19 inches statewide, which was 0.80 inches below normal.

Topsoil moisture was rated as 1 percent short, 60 percent adequate, and 39 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 3 percent short, 57 percent adequate, and 40 percent surplus. There were 4 days suitable for fieldwork.

The main farming activities for the week were planting corn, seeding tobacco, applying fertilizer, spraying weeds, plowing, marketing cattle, and working on farm equipment. In some areas soil saturation and wet weather did not permit much fieldwork.

For 2008, 94 percent of tobacco plants will be grown in greenhouses compared to 6 percent in conventional beds. As of Sunday April 20, 64 percent of tobacco plants were less than 2 inches in height, 25 percent were 2 to 4 inches tall, and 11 percent were taller than 4 inches.

Corn planting progress continued to be behind last year and the five year average. As of Sunday April 20, 11 percent of the intended corn acreage had been planted compared to 39 percent for last year and 47 percent for the five year average.

Last week 1 percent of the intended had been planted.

Winter wheat condition was rated 3 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 20 percent fair, 47 percent good, and 26 percent excellent.

Farmers expect the first date of alfalfa cutting to be around May 9. This year’s anticipated alfalfa hay crop will be a welcome change from last year’s freeze and drought reduced crop.

As of April 20, condition of strawberry crop was 1 percent very poor, 7 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 52 percent good, and 8 percent excellent.

Pasture condition was 5 percent very poor, 17 percent poor, 40 percent fair, 34 percent good, and 4 percent excellent.

North Carolina

Most parts of North Carolina received rain this past week with Halifax recording 2.45 inches. However, no precipitation was recorded for Elizabeth City. Below average temperatures were experienced throughout the state with temperatures ranging from 43 to 59 degrees. Even with unusually cold weather there were no reports of widespread freeze damage.

There were 5.6 days suitable for field work, compared to 3.9 the previous week. Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 1 percent very short, 15 percent short, 76 percent adequate and 8 percent surplus. Activities during the week included the planting of corn, managing tobacco transplants, spreading of fertilizer, and other spring planting preparations.

South Carolina

South Carolina had a light scattered frost last week that slightly burned some newly emerged corn and damaged some recently transplanted tobacco. Most of the week saw dry weather that allowed farmers ample time for field work. The majority of the state received less than an inch of precipitation.

Soil moisture was 1 percent very short, 22 percent short, 75 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus. Favorable weather increased planting activities, as there was a statewide average of 6.2 days suitable for field work.

Producers were busy planting corn and transplanting tobacco last week. Good progress was also being made preparing land for cotton, soybeans, and peanuts.

Corn planting was two-thirds complete, and was slightly ahead of last year’s average. The newly planted corn crop was in mostly good condition.

Oat heading was on schedule with last year’s average, and the crop was also in mostly good condition.

Tobacco transplanting was slightly ahead of average for this time in the season, and growers had transplanted half of the states tobacco crop. The crop was in mostly good condition.

Winter wheat was 50 percent headed and continued to look good.

Livestock conditions were little changed from last week, and remained mostly good. Pastures were getting just a slight bit dry in some areas, but were still greening-up. Farmers in some areas of the state have begun cutting small grain and ryegrass hay.

Peaches remained in mostly good condition. Vegetable planting made good progress in the favorable weather. Conditions ranged from fair to good.

An upper level feature dropped southeast on Monday with areas of light rain and unseasonably cooler temperatures.

Under a patchwork of cumulus clouds, surface winds on Tuesday gusted from the north at over 30 mph. A late spring freeze and scattered frost was reported Wednesday morning for much of the state, excluding the southernmost counties.

Bright, blue skies were observed during the daylight hours Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m., Anderson AP measured a relative humidity value of 14 percent. A full day of high angle sun helped warm Friday afternoon into the 80s.

A weak, frontal boundary entered the state on Saturday with increased cloudiness and isolated showers. Mostly sunny, breezy conditions were reported through the day on Sunday.

The state average temperature for the period was seven degrees below normal.

The highest official temperature reported was 86 degrees at Cheraw and Jamestown on April 18. The lowest official temperature reported was 27 degrees at Pelion on the morning of April 16. The heaviest official 24-hour rainfall reported was 1.49 inches at N. Myrtle Beach AP on April 20. The state average rainfall for the period was 0.2 inches.

Virginia

The week started off dry, followed by heavy rains throughout the weekend. Days suitable for field work were 5.5.

Good progress was made on corn planted. Due to the scarcity of seed, some growers were waiting for warmer temperatures before planting their crops. However, other growers were planting at full speed.

Hay, winter wheat, and barley were in good condition due to timely showers. Other farming activities this week included applying fertilizers to wheat and barley, preparing fields with non-selective herbicides, planting vegetables, and harvesting some early strawberries.

Reporter comments by county

Comments are based on comments reported by extension agents, farmers, commodity specialists, and other knowledgeable individuals.

Augusta (Brain Jones): “Cool and moist conditions early in the week gave way to warm dry conditions allowing field work to progress rapidly the second half of the week. Small grain harvest for forage progressed rapidly this week.”

Rockbridge (Jon Repair): “Rains over the weekend have certainly brought encouragement. There were three nights of frost at the beginning of the week which slowed down forage growth in hay fields and pastures. Corn planting has begun. Winter grain growth has been below normal for this time of year due to dry weather and above normal temperatures. Cattle prices continue to fall as feed prices rise, not a very conducive match as other inputs continue to rise also. Some livestock are still being fed stored forages which continues to put a strain on costs.”

Culpeper(Carl Stafford): “The rain over the weekend and on Monday improved surface soil conditions, at least temporarily.”

Sussex (Kelvin Wells): “Farmers are preparing to plant cotton and fumigating peanut land. Next week, growers will start planting peanuts. Good rains over the weekend will provide more soil moisture, especially since it was short from last year.”

Suffolk City (Rex Cotton): “We are really catching up on rainfall. Farmers are hoping that warmer temperatures and sunny days will return so they can resume planting.”

Virginia Beach (Cal Schiemann): “Strawberry crop is one week ahead of normal. Growers that used winter row covers have been harvesting early varieties for two weeks. Harvest of main crop will start next week.”

Grayson (Kevin Spurlin): “Cover crops are being treated in preparation for corn planting. Tobacco fields are being plowed. Farmers welcomed weekend rains.”

Montgomery (Barry Robinson): “Rainfall received late in the week benefited all crops (winter grains and hay/pastures).”

Appomattox (Bruce Jones): “Spring tillage continues for conventional corn and conventional soybean fields. Burndown chemicals are being applied to no-till fields and fertilizer applications continue. Farmers getting hay equipment ready and will start cutting rye as soon as weather permits.”

Accomack (Jim Belote): “Corn planting at full speed. Farmers are scouting wheat for disease and insects. Tomato planting is in progress. Was getting dry but suppose to rain today. If it does, rains will be very timely. Farmers are applying fertilizer for soybeans and burndown chemical for corn and soybeans. Potato planting has finished up on time, if not a little bit early.”

Middlesex (David Moore): “Wheat looks very good and is beginning to head out. Barley has headed and has begun flowering. Producers are scouting for disease and insects in wheat and making fungicide and insecticide applications. Corn land prep continues. Lime spreading and fertilizer applications continue and corn planting is about to get into full swing. Cool night time temperatures have wheat producers anxious about possible damage to crop. Frost hit most areas on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Most wheat had not quite headed out at that time. Ground moisture currently is good. Vegetable fields are being prepared for planting. Sweet corn planting has begun.”

Westmoreland (Sam Johnson): “After a dry week and good planting conditions, it rained about an inch on Sunday and most fields will be too wet for field work for several days. Corn planting made good progress during the week. Barley headed and wheat is close behind and both crops look good. Not a lot of insect problems reported. Vegetable planting continued. Some early strawberries were harvested.”