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Drought conditions spreading in lower Southeast

Dry weather once again seems to be settling in over the lower Southeast as area growers look to the skies for relief. Even though Florida has been blessed with rainfall over most of the state, Alabama and Georgia have not been so fortunate.

Here’s how the crop and weather situation unfolded during the week ended June 29, according to the various state USDA/NASS field offices.


Rain showers have been hit and miss across the state during the past few weeks which left Alabama’s crops and pastures thirsty and showing signs of drought stress.

Average temperatures varied from three degrees below to four degrees above normal during the past week. Daytime highs ranged from 92 degrees in Cullman, Sand Mountain, Union Springs, and Mobile to 97 degrees in Muscle Shoals, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, and Eufaula. Overnight lows varied from 57 degrees in Bridgeport to 69 degrees in Dothan.

Most weather stations reported receiving rainfall. Total accumulations through Sunday morning ranged from 0.03 inches in Troy to 3.50 inches in Brewton.

Crop conditions varied across the state and even within counties. Donald E. Mann, county executive director in the Jackson County FSA office, indicated that the corn crop in some parts of the county had completely burned up, while other stands looked promising.

James D. Jones, Jr., county Extension coordinator for Henry County, reported rainfall was needed across the county, and that the dryland corn crop was in bad shape.

Leonard Kuykendall, regional Extension agent located in Autauga County, mentioned that producers hoped to receive rainfall very soon because many areas were very dry.

Alex Brand, county executive director in the Wilcox County FSA office, stated that producers were planting their double-cropped soybeans.

Producers were busy side-dressing cotton with nitrogen fertilizer, and making herbicide and insecticide applications to cotton, peanuts, and soybeans.

The supply of fresh peaches slumped during the past 10 to 14 days. Bobby Boozer, research horticulturist at the Chilton Research and Extension Center, indicated the primary factor that led to the shortage in supply was the freeze in late March. Producers who grow 650 to 750 chill hour varieties ended up having a light crop. Brown rot was prevalent in some orchards as more rainfall was received in mid-June. Growers that had fruit suffering from the disease were encouraged to open up the centers of their trees to allow for more penetration from fungicide sprays. The application of sufficient water volume, removing damaged fruit from the tree, and controlling insects such as leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs were also critical in controlling brown rot.

Bruce West, county executive director in the Mobile County FSA office, added that irrigated vegetables looked good, but that dryland crops varied depending on the amount of rainfall received.

Pasture conditions declined slightly, as most areas of the state were dry until later in the week. Donald Mann mentioned that pastures in Jackson County have declined quickly with the lack of moisture, and that some livestock producers were already feeding hay. Jack Tatum, regional Extension agent located in Shelby County, reported the area was in desperate need of rainfall, and producers could lose one cutting of hay if dry conditions continue.

Henry Dorough, regional Extension agent located in Talladega County, said the lack of rainfall in the area was beginning to show in pastures and hayfields. Cattle producers culled older, less productive cows to take advantage of high killer-cow prices.

Some producers in the Talladega County area were already talking of downsizing herds, and preparing for the possibility of no additional hay production.

Kenneth Kelly, regional Extension agent located in Mobile County, noted that insect pressure has been absent, and the recent rainfall has helped to rejuvenate a flush of forage growth in pastures around the area.


High temperatures throughout Florida ranged from the upper 80s to mid-90s. Low temperatures were in the mid to upper 60s for the majority of locations. Rain was scattered in various pockets, with most areas receiving over an inch.

Considerable precipitation came to nearly the entire southern and central Peninsula. Rain amounts totaled about 1 to 2 inches for most Panhandle cities. Osceola, St. Lucie, and Highlands counties received 5.26, 3.64, and 3.59 inches, respectively.

Peanut pegging was 44 percent complete compared to 24 percent last year and the condition was rated 1 percent poor, 67 percent fair, 25 percent good, and 7 percent excellent. Soil moisture levels were short in the Panhandle and central Peninsula, but adequate in the southern Peninsula and Big Bend area.

Many counties experienced improvements in field crops due to recent rains. Crops remain stressed in those areas that did not receive sufficient rainfall.

Washington County reported that early planted crops were developing well. All peanut and cotton crops were emerged and soil moisture was good enough to practice adequate weed control in Washington County.

Irrigated corn in Jefferson County was described as good, with ears developing.

Pecans and cotton were in fair to good condition in Jefferson County. Crops in Brevard County were aided by rain, but needed more to get back to normal.

The summer harvest of many vegetables has ended, especially in the central and southern regions. Washington County was in mid-harvest for watermelon. Some seedless varieties showed signs of hollow heart. Okra, tomatoes, watermelon, and avocadoes moved through the market for the week ending June 29, 2008.

The pasture condition improved in most of the state. However, much more rain will be needed for normal forage growth. In the Panhandle and northern areas, pasture condition was very poor to excellent with most in fair condition.

Recent rainfall has helped pastures. Grass was recovering from drought conditions, but was very short and recovery will take time due to overgrazed conditions. Drought has reduced hay production.

Most cattle in the north were in fair to good condition. Pasture in the central areas was poor to excellent and the condition of cattle was poor to good. In the southwestern areas, pasture condition ranged from very poor to excellent condition with most cattle condition varied from poor to good.

On the citrus scene, typical summer patterns have set in with warm mornings and plenty of sunshine followed by afternoon soaking rains and evening thunderstorms. Areas all across the citrus belt received ample amounts of rainfall. Ft. Pierce and Sebring had the most at over three and a half inches. On several days highs were in the lower 90s. All areas had at least one day reaching 93 degrees. The tropical weather continues to be an asset to fruit growth and tree foliage.

Oranges were as large as golf ball size, while grapefruit were about two to three times as large. Trees in well kept groves were in good condition for next season’s crop. Production practices were on schedule in all areas and included herbicide application, spraying, mowing, and brush removal.

Some growers were combining efforts and used aerial applications for Psyllid control.

Valencia harvest continued to be active in southern areas where the majority of remaining fruit was located. A few processing plants plan to run Valencia oranges into the second week of July. Grapefruit utilization was nearly over with small amounts of red varieties continuing to be processed. Honey tangerine harvest was completed for the season.


Scattered showers reported last week failed to improve the moisture situation, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Daily average high temperatures fluctuated between the high 80s and low 90s. Average lows were in the 60s most of week. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 33 percent very short, 38 percent short, 28 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

Pasture and hay fields continue to suffer due to a lack of rain. Some cattlemen have been feeding hay due to poor pasture conditions.

Many producers have suspended their planting efforts due to a lack of rainfall. Tobacco harvest is under way and wheat harvest is nearing completion. Peach harvest is ahead of normal.

Other activities included controlling weeds in cotton, applying fungicides to peanuts and fertilizer to tobacco. County Extension Agents reported an average of 6.3 days suitable for fieldwork.


District 1 — Northwest

“Still dry, very dry. Only receiving few scattered showers, if any at all.”

District 2 — North Central

“Rain is very much needed. Another week without rain will be very bad on all crops.”

District 4 — West Central

“Been getting showers over the past week. Some reports of worms in peanuts. Stinkbugs in corn. Fungicides starting to go out over peanuts.”

District 5 — Central

“Got a little rain in some areas, still need much more. Crop, pasture and hayfield conditions continue to decline. Wheat harvest complete. Some cattlemen having to feed hay due to poor pasture conditions.”

District 6 — East Central

“Getting scattered showers that are helping some fields. Stink bugs in corn, some cases of poor pollination showing up due to tasseling during extreme heat. Dry land corn mighty poor. Some growers considering cutting it for silage but it may not be fit for that either. Cotton about 7-9 days behind growth schedule due to dry conditions. Dry land peanuts look good, but aren't growing very fast. No sign of foliage feeders or disease although some foliar fungicide is being put out. Off to a rough start controlling weeds due to non-activation of pre-emerge herbicides in dry land fields. Makes it hard to determine herbicide resistance, but it seems we have several questionable fields where standard rate of glyphosate was not adequate. Many late planted soybean fields have little or no stand. Some replanting being done since dealers aren't taking back the unused seed.”

District 7 — Southwest

“Most areas of county received from 1 inch to one and three quarters inches of rain. Rains needed on dryland crops. Some stand loss on soybeans due to drying out of soils.”

District 8 — South Central

“Getting some showers but in general not enough, and all crops are stressing. Hay producers say they are on average two cuttings behind due to drought. Numerous diseases in tobacco showing up. Applying fungicides on peanuts and applying sucker control to tobacco. Controlling weeds in cotton. Irrigating if possible. More insect problems than normal. Been a tough year so far.”

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