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Drought conditions persist along vacation route

This is not an official crop report. Don’t confuse these observations with information coming out of the USDA, your state agricultural statistics service or weekly updates from county Extension agents. The accuracy is not guaranteed. Nor are these reports far-reaching. In fact, much of what I have to report comes from observations noted doing 75 miles per hour down Interstate highways from Denton, Texas, all the way across the country to the North Carolina coast and then back north and west through North Carolina, Tennessee, across Arkansas and on into Texas by July 4.

But what I can tell you, based on these less than comprehensive views, is that it’s dry all over.

Two weeks ago we left Denton headed east. I’d visited farms earlier that week in Northeast Texas and found moisture reserves pretty good and crop conditions exceptionally promising, except in a few fields where hail had hammered corn.

In my travels, I noticed a mixture of poor and promising crops through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. We didn’t travel through much cropland in Georgia but we did see some pasture land along I-20 that had held up fairly well. Some had not, however.

South Carolina was mostly dry from the Upstate through the Low Country. I will note here that corn, from East Texas across the Mid-South and into the Carolinas, looked pretty bad. It was a rare field that didn’t show drought stress—curled leaves and dusky green stalks. In many cases, corn stalks had begun to fire prematurely.

Cotton prospects looked much better all across the country we traveled. Not all fields looked great, but overall cotton was faring much better than corn.

I saw dryland peanuts in South Carolina that surprised me. Plants were holding on and still displayed a nice green color. They were small, however, and had not lapped. I suspect they will go downhill rapidly without water.

We drove north from Myrtle Beach, S.C. up to Southport, North Carolina, and saw a lot of small corn fields, some soybeans and a few tobacco fields. The soybeans and tobacco looked pretty good, the corn, not so much.

Also, corn in the valleys and hollows of the Carolina mountains and foothills, bottomland even, showed drought stress. From Johnson City, Tennessee—in the far northeast corner of the State—we drove south to Knoxville and then west to Nashville, southwest to Memphis and west through much of Arkansas and back to Texas. The trend continued. Cotton looked fair. Corn, except in a few places where center pivots provided water, was under drought stress.

Aransas rice seemed to be doing well. Cotton was up and down. Corn was hurting. Soybeans, for the most part, looked pretty good.

Back in East Texas, conditions that had created a hopeful outlook just two weeks earlier had deteriorated by July 3, the day we got home. Apparently, the area received no rain the entire two weeks we were gone.

I just read a report from an MSNBC website that reported 56 percent of the country is under some drought stress category or another. The Midwest is hurting. Much of the Southwest remains under drought, though not as severe as was the case this time last year.

As I said at the top, this is not an official report, and I’m sure variations exist along the route we took as well as the vast areas that we didn’t get close to. But weather observers bear out what I saw. It’s dry all across the country.

I will note, however, that I did see some healthy stands of kudzu.

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