There were exceptions, but as a general rule the lower Southeast remained on the dry side while upper reaches of the area received generous rainfall during the week ending May 18.

Much of Alabama received much needed rainfall, scattered showers helped some Georgia growers, but much of Florida remained dry and windy. Meanwhile, frequent rainfall put growers in Tennessee and Kentucky behind in their planting schedules.

Conditions in the Carolinas varied, while Virginia experienced a cool, wet week.

Here’s how the various state USDA/NASS field offices reported the situation for the week ending May 18.

Alabama

A large storm system brought needed rainfall to most of the state on Thursday of the past week. Shane Seay, county executive director in the Limestone County FSA office, noted the short-term drought conditions that plagued the area in the past have subsided. The available soil moisture enabled spring crop planting to progress well.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor released for May 13, 2008, only 10.4 percent of Alabama was suffering from extreme hydrological drought conditions compared to 51 percent a year ago.

Temperatures during the past week were much cooler than normal. Average temperatures in Cullman, Sand Mountain, Guntersville, and Highland Home fell to as many as 8 degrees below normal for this time of year. Daytime highs ranged from 73 degrees in Sand Mountain to a sweltering 94 degrees in Dothan. Overnight lows varied from 41 degrees in Cullman and Highland Home to 53 degrees in Bay Minette, Mobile, and Dothan.

All reporting weather stations received rainfall during the past week.

However, the total accumulations varied tremendously, not only across the state, but also within districts. Rainfall totals ranged from 0.46 inches in Huntsville to a whopping 4.84 inches in Livingston.

Nearly 90 percent of the state’s wheat was reported in good to excellent condition. Many wheat stands have reached the dough stage of maturity. Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent located in Autauga County, stated that moderate temperatures have delayed maturity of the wheat crop in some areas.

Olin F. Farrior, county Extension coordinator in Escambia County, mentioned that the heavy rain that fell on Thursday, May 15, caused lodging that could result in yield loss in some wheat and oat stands. Some wheat showed signs of disease because of the moisture received during the last two weeks.

Alex Brand, county executive director in the Wilcox County FSA office, added that wheat in the area looked good, and that harvest was expected to begin within the next two weeks.

Overall, Alabama’s corn crop remained in mostly good to excellent condition. Leonard Kuykendall noted that corn and cotton in the area around Autauga County were looking good. The soybean acreage that was planted in and around Autauga County had emerged with the recent soil moisture.

Certain areas of the state were extremely dry during the early part of the past week. Corn stands in several non- irrigated fields in Dale County began to wilt in the dry weather conditions. Producers were busy side-dressing corn, and applying insecticides and herbicides to cotton stands.

Larry Forrester, county executive director in the Dale County FSA office, reported that producers had stopped planting peanuts early during the past week due to dry soil conditions, but planned on resuming operations after some moisture was received.

With timely rainfall, 70 percent of Alabama’s pasture land remained in good to excellent condition.

Weed control continued to be the most important issue for many producers trying to address pasture performance.

Henry Dorough, regional Extension agent located in Talladega County, indicated that widespread rainfall ranging from 0.5 to 3 inches helped improve pastures in areas where fertility was managed.

Poorly managed pastures were beginning to show signs of over-grazing. Kenneth Kelly, regional Extension agent located in Mobile County, added that recent showers helped stimulate growth, and green up summer perennials.

The state’s first hay harvest progressed 8 percent during the past week. Rainfall slowed or halted some haying operations.

The state’s livestock were reported in good to excellent condition, and were obtaining 90 percent of their feedstuffs from pasture grasses.

Florida

Dry, windy conditions continued last week with spots of rain towards the end of the week. Areas of the Panhandle and Big Bend received between half an inch to just over two and a half inches of rain. Santa Rosa County received the most precipitation at 2.64 inches. Traces of rain were spotted in other areas, mostly throughout the central Peninsula.

Major cities averaged high temperatures in the 80s and 90s, while low temperatures ranged in the 40s to 70s.

Peanut planting continued with 62 percent completed, compared to 39 percent last year.

Potato harvest continued throughout the tri-county areas. Pecan bloom was nearly complete in Jefferson County. Wheat harvest began in Santa Rosa County and pastures remained stressed due to lack of rain.

Across the state, topsoil moisture was mostly very short to short and subsoil moisture was reportedly short.

Some vegetable crops looked good last week while others deteriorated due to dry and windy conditions. Florida City harvested and packed beans, tomatoes, and okra. Fort Myers and Immokalee reported low volumes of watermelon being harvested. In Immokalee, low volume of watermelon was due to cool nighttime temperatures and disease.

Cucumbers continued to be planted in Fort Pierce. Squash harvest continued throughout Gadsden. Windy conditions caused some wind burn on local, mixed vegetable crops in Palatka. Local planting reached completion in Pompano.

In Starke, the local strawberry harvest was scheduled to finish last week.

Suwannee Valley began harvesting green beans, cucumbers, and organic crops at the end of the week. Other vegetables marketed throughout the week were corn, eggplant, okra, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes.

Georgia

Scattered showers brought relief to some farmers, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Daily average high temperatures were in the high 70s to lower-80s. Average lows were in the 50s.

Soil moisture conditions were rated at 12 percent very short, 29 percent short, 56 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus.

Pasture and hay field conditions made some improvements due to the rain. Wheat conditions also improved slightly.

The topsoil moisture, which had been decreasing, improved slightly with the rains.

The high winds last week caused some breakage in commercial grape vines. There was some damage done to small grains from the storm.

Some beef producers are still feeding hay due to dry conditions and slow grass growth.

Other activities included spreading more poultry litter than normal due to high nitrogen prices.

County Extension agents reported an average of 5.7 days suitable for fieldwork.

DISTRICT COMMENTS

District 1 — Northwest

“We had about an inch of rain on Thursday, May 15. Rains yesterday, Thursday afternoon and evening, amounted to just under one inch is a welcome site. It was starting to get very dry again. There are still a lot of watershed ponds needing water while spring fed ponds are full.”

District 2 — North Central

“High winds this week caused some breakage in commercial grape vines, some wheat blown down by wind and rain, most hay fields ready for cutting when suitable weather arrives.”

District 4 — West Central

“Wheat crop is maturing out. Making hay from small grains. Some rain scattered around last week but soil moisture is lacking. Some weed control and talk of fertilization.”

District 5 — Central

“Many hay producers cutting hay. Pasture and hay field conditions continue to improve due to rains. Wheat conditions also improving slightly. We received 0.46 of an inch of rainfall on May 9, 0.23 of an inch on May 10 and 1.01 inch on May 11. We have begun to plant our spring crops. Some damage to small grains from storm. Most beef producers still feeding hay due to dry conditions and slow grass growth. Hay production looking light at this time. Farmers Market to start second Saturday in June.

District 6 — East Central

“Nights still a little cool for good bermudagrass growth. Good rain from storms last Sunday morning will probably save some dry cotton fields although some replanting is being done on strip-planted fields. Conditions are good for peanut planting, corn has been top-dressed and laid by except for a last weed spray. Soybean seed is scarce and may alter some planting intentions. Wheat harvest will be a little late and this could alter some planting intentions also. Many trees down from storm, lots of property damage, but no crop damage. Some scattered showers. Field work well under way. Wind is blowing.

District 7 — Southwest

“Dry conditions persist. Soil moisture very low. Continued lack of rain affected pasture and hay field growth. Corn irrigated weekly. Peanuts and cotton being irrigated to get stands. Dryland peanuts dusted in dry dirt.”

District 8 — South Central

“Very dry! We missed the Mothers Day rainfall. Good chance of rainfall on Friday. Planting cotton and peanuts. Side-dressing fertilizer on tobacco. Spreading more poultry litter than normal due to high nitrogen prices. Applying herbicides and insecticides and inoculants as they plant. Lawns and gardens are in need of rainfall, also. Rains bring relief to farmers. Drier conditions as of Friday a.m. have an adverse effect on crop conditions. Rain desperately needed in southern half of the county.

District 9 — Southeast

Thanks Lord for the rain this week.

Tennessee

Most field activities were limited last week due to scattered showers and thunderstorms across Tennessee. Planting progress for most crops continues to lag behind last year and the five-year average.

With almost one-fourth of their acreage planted, cotton producers were 10 days behind the five-year average, while soybean farmers lagged one week behind the normal schedule.

Tobacco transplanting and hay harvest continued on a limited basis, both slightly behind the 5-year average.

The winter wheat crop continues to be rated in mostly good-to-excellent condition with a few fields beginning to turn color.

Other field activities taking place last week, as weather allowed, included spreading fertilizer, spraying pesticides, and picking strawberries.

There were 3 days considered suitable for fieldwork last week. As of Friday, topsoil moisture levels were rated 3 percent short, 70 percent adequate, and 27 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 2 percent very short, 11 percent short, 70 percent adequate, and 17 percent surplus.

Temperatures across the state were below normal last week, as was precipitation.

COUNTY AGENT COMMENTS

"Rainy and cool weather continues to plague and halt cotton and soybean planting. Wheat continues to progress well. Diseases are present and poised to affect yields depending upon weather conditions the rest of May. However, many acres have been sprayed with a fungicide which is a plus to ward off disease progress. Cotton planting timing is rapidly reaching a critical stage where producers need to be getting cotton planted." Tim Campbell, Dyer County

"Continued wet, cloudy weather allowed few opportunities for field work this week. Producers are looking for warmer/drier conditions next week to complete corn planting and start soybean planting. Some herbicide applications went out this past week and side-dressed nitrogen fertilizer applications were able to be made." Jeff Lannom, Weakley County

"Hay harvest took an upturn this weekend in hopes of catching a few days of drying time in between threat of rain. Some river bottoms will have some late planted corn." Troy Dugger, Hickman County

"The wet weather has made some people anxious about setting tobacco and they are behind schedule. Several people have tobacco plants ready to set and it is too wet for ground preparation. Pastures and hay are coming along, but with the hay that has been harvested; the yield is down due to last year's drought." Jason Evitts, Trousdale County

"The wheat crop has started to change color. Some weed issues such as vetch, thistle, etc. have shown up in some fields of wheat. Wet weather has delayed some field work but corn planting is nearing completion. Hay harvest of tall fescue has been delayed. Those producers with bermuda hay fields are seeing some good growth despite cool temperatures." Matt Webb, Marion County

Kentucky

Above normal rainfall and below normal temperatures was the trend across the Commonwealth. Temperatures for the week averaged 58 degrees across the state which was 6 degrees below normal for the week. Total precipitation for the week was 1.36 inches statewide, which was 0.19 inches above normal.

Topsoil moisture was rated as 2 percent short, 57 percent adequate, and 41 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 3 percent short, 67 percent adequate, and 30 percent surplus. There were 2.3 days suitable for fieldwork.

The primary farming activities for the week were setting tobacco, planting corn and soybeans.

Tobacco setting was behind last year and the five-year average, slowed by damp field conditions. Ten percent of the burley tobacco plants have been set, compared with 32 percent last year and the five-year average of 21 percent. Nine percent of the dark tobacco has been set, behind last year’s 28 percent and the five-year average of 18 percent. Farmers reported the tobacco crop condition as 6 percent poor, 34 percent fair, 46 percent good, and 14 percent excellent.

Corn producers have seeded 73 percent of their acres, compared to 95 percent last year, and 90 percent for the five-year average. Crop emergence was reported at 54 percent, below last year’s 83 percent and the five-year average of 77 percent. The average emerged corn height was 4 inches, with the most advanced height at 7 inches. Corn condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 23 percent fair, 56 percent good, and 16 percent excellent.

As of Sunday, May 18, soybeans were 12 percent planted compared to 33 percent last year and 29 percent for the five-year average. Soybeans emerged was reported at 5 percent, behind last year’s 7 percent and the five-year average of 8 percent.

The winter wheat crop condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 16 percent fair, 46 percent good, and 34 percent excellent. Some farmers continued to report some lodging in their wheat crop. The winter wheat harvest is expected to begin June 17, and barley on June 11.

As of Sunday, May 18, three percent of sorghum acres had been planted, behind last year’s 29 percent, and the five-year average of 24 percent. The hay crop condition was rated at 3 percent very poor, 9 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 45 percent good, and 10 percent excellent. Pasture condition was rated 2 percent very poor, 8 percent poor, 36 percent fair, 43 percent good, and 11 percent excellent.

North Carolina

Most of North Carolina received rain this week with Wilmington recording 2.72 inches. Average temperatures were below normal and ranged between 50 to 67 degrees.

Light rain showers dominated the Mountain region, with little drought relief being experienced. On the other hand, the Piedmont and Coastal regions have received more rain and crops are reaping the benefits.

There were 5.5 days suitable for field work, unchanged from last week.

Statewide soil moisture levels are rated at 1 percent very short, 16 percent short, 72 percent adequate and 11 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included the planting of cotton, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, sweet potatoes, flue-cured and burley tobacco and harvesting hay, barley and truck crops.

South Carolina

The state was drier this week in most areas with notable exceptions in two separate bands running from Allendale to Georgetown counties, and from Kershaw to northern Marlboro Counties.

Very high winds caused soils to dry out quickly, allowing farmers to get back into their fields sooner than expected. Windy conditions have caused wind burn on young plants in some fields.

Soil moisture ratings for the week were 3 percent very short, 26 percent short, and 71 percent adequate. There was a statewide average of 6 days suitable for field work.

This year’s corn crop was all in the ground. The corn condition ranged from poor to excellent, but remained mostly good.

A lot of cotton was planted this past week. A heavy storm with hard packing rains hit the Lower Savannah River Area which may require the replanting of some cotton acres there. Approximately two-thirds of what has been planted was reported in good condition.

Oats have just about completed heading. The crop was turning color, and was beginning to ripen. The crop still remained in mostly good condition.

Farmers have been busy planting peanuts. Those that have been planted thus far were in mostly good condition.

Soybean planting was still ongoing. Like many of the other field crops, soybeans were also in mostly good condition.

Sweet potatoes were over one- third planted, and the crop was reported in fair condition.

Tobacco has been set in the fields for this year. Conditions for the young plants declined some from drying winds, but still were generally very good.

Winter wheat has finished heading, and was rapidly turning color. Heavy winds have hastened drydown.

Livestock conditions were little changed from the previous week remaining mostly good. Pasture conditions were similar to the previous week as well, mostly ranging from fair to good. Most of the grain hay has been cut, with 92 percent of conditions reported as fair and good.

Peaches were still looking very good. Vegtable planting has finished for snap beans, and tomatoes. Hail hit a portion of Hampton County damaging some watermelons there. Conditions varied widely depending on the crop from poor to excellent.

Virginia

The Commonwealth experienced a cool and wet week. Due to seed rot brought on by the wet and cool weather, some growers were replanting corn. Days suitable for field work were 3.2.

Little progress was made on soybean plantings as growers waited for wet fields to dry. Fifteen percent of soybeans were planted, 5 percent less than the average.

The first cutting of hay was ready to harvest throughout most of Virginia. Some growers continued to wait for drier weather before cutting hay, while others cut and baled between rain storms.

Other farming activities for the week included planting tomatoes and sweet corn, harvesting early vegetables, transplanting tobacco, and preparing to harvest barley.

REPORTER COMMENTS BY COUNTY

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

EASTERN

ACCOMACK (Jim Belote)

“Heavy, frequent rains most of the week. Excellent potato crop. Delay in planting of soybeans and last of corn due to wet weather. Wheat heads filling out good. Should be a good wheat crop yield wise.”

ESSEX (Keith Balderson)

“Continued rains and winds have caused some lodging in the barley crop. Some diseases such as scab, septoria leaf, and glume blotch have also been reported in wheat. A few isolated problems with white grubs and slugs have been reported in corn. Full-season soybean planting has been slowed by wet weather. First hay cuttings have been very good, but baling has been hampered by wet conditions.

KING GEORGE (Regina Prunty)

“Small grain harvest has not yet started. Rains last week caused some lodging in grain fields. Pastures are benefiting from moisture.

MIDDLESEX (Moore)

“Cold and wet weather for much of the week. No small grains have been harvested for grain yet. Much hay has been harvested and has been baled luckily between rains. Farmers are hesitant to cut down any more. Corn replanting and planting continues. Some low ground fields still have not been planted. A few beans have been planted, but are not fairing well due to the rain and cool temps.

RICHMOND (Kelly J. Liddington)

“Hay harvest has been delayed due to the weather. Growers are waiting for good weather and hoping to get into those fields this week.”

WESTMORELAND (Sam Johnson)

“We have had 5-7 inches of rain across the area over the past 8 days which has halted or slowed all field work. Corn is up and looking good for the most part. Some fields are on the yellow side due to the cooler temps, but most fields have good stands. Not much soybean planting due to wet fields. Heavy rains and wind have lodged some of the small grain which will make extra harvest problems. Early vegetable harvest continues as well as some vegetable planting where fields are not too wet. First cutting hay needs cutting but has been too wet.”

WESTERN

BATH (Rodney Leech)

“Rainy wet conditions have limited field work and cool damp nights have slowed grass growth some.”

CENTRAL

BEDFORD (Scott Baker)

“The hay harvest is under way but is off to a slow start due to cool temperatures and rainfall. Yields and stands are variable, but in general appear to be better than Spring 2007.”

SOUTHERN

PITTSYLVANIA (Stephen Barts & Jamie Stowe)

“Tobacco planting continues to progress, but the recent rains has slowed it down. Disease concerns in the greenhouse are mounting because of the length of time that the plants have been in the house. Corn is being planted and what has emerged looks very good. There has been no small grain harvest. Farmers are trying to get hay harvested in a timely manner, but there is a lot of hay on the ground that has been rained on and they are calling for more showers this week.”