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Scattered showers fail to relieve drought

Dry weather continued to grab the headlines across much of the Southeast during the week ended May 13. Crop planting stalled in some areas, while seed was being dusted in elsewhere.

The season’s first named storm, Andrea brought some showers to the upper Southeast, but failed to bring much relief to the parched areas of Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Wildfires continued to burn, destroying timber and wildlife and reducing air quality.

Here’s a look at conditions around the area for the week past.


The severe lack of rainfall and very dry soil conditions continued to take their toll on all Alabama crops.

Chuck Browne, Lee County Extension agent, stated that non-irrigated crops in the county are suffering, and that seeds have either not germinated or crop emergence is poor. Scattered showers during the past week provided some relief to isolated areas around the state, but county Extension agents, as well as numerous people in FSA offices across the state, have reported their counties are extremely dry and in desperate need of more soaking rain.

Most reporting weather stations recorded precipitation totals below normal with the exception of Brewton and Eufaula where 1.12 and 1 inches of rainfall were received, respectively. Extreme drought conditions have pushed further into the south-central parts of the state, while counties that were relatively drought free have now been classified as abnormally dry.

The weather station in Gadsden received no rain, and has reached a year-to-date precipitation deficit of 16.04 inches.

Temperatures for the past week were mostly above normal, with Dothan reaching a daytime high of 95 degrees.

Alabama’s wheat crop remained in varied condition, with the majority ranging from very poor to good. Shane Seay in the Limestone County FSA office mentioned that some wheat has been cut and rolled for hay, while other producers are still undecided about what to do with their damaged crop.

Most corn replanting is complete, as the crop was reported in mostly fair to good condition.

Donald E. Mann in the Jackson County FSA office noted that some corn in the county has twisted up during the heat of the day.

Cotton planting pushed forward over the past week even though soil moisture conditions are not at an optimum.

Many producers dusted in the seeds with hopes of receiving a much needed rain shower. Leonard Kuykendall, Autauga County Extension agent, added that most cotton producers in the county stopped planting.

James. D. Jones, Jr., Henry County Extension agent, reported that cotton growers in Henry County have also halted their planting.

The state’s peanut crop has emerged in fields where farmers were able to plant their fields early. Soil moisture levels have kept many other producers from seeding their fields, but during the past week a few more farmers started planting anyway.

Chip East, commercial horticulturist and regional Extension agent in east-central Alabama stated that the area has averaged less than one inch of rainfall per month over the last three months, and that it is very difficult to provide enough water through the use of irrigation systems.

However, disease and insect pressures have been very low.

Peach orchard producers were busy trying to thin fruit, but have had a hard time determining which fruit still have a viable embryo because the normal “size separation” has not occurred.

Bobby Boozer, research horticulturist at the Chilton Research and Extension Center indicated that pest management programs continued to be implemented in orchards where “good” fruit appear.

Alternate row middle sprays have been utilized to help reduce the costs of inputs, and give growers more time to evaluate fruit load.

Alabama’s pasture conditions worsened during the past week, as grass supplies became even shorter.

Frankie Shaw reported that a lack of adequate moisture has affected permanent pasture and hay fields in Cherokee, Etowah and St. Clair counties. There has been very little hay harvested in these counties.

Mann noted that hay yields in Jackson County have been running below normal, and that pastures are very short.

Jones indicated that pasture and hay fields in Henry County are dry, with little to no grazing available. Many cattlemen were already feeding this year’s hay supplies to their herds.


Dry conditions persisted during most of the week of May 7 through May 13. At the end of the week, a cold front, combined with the west and east coast sea breezes, spawned storms over the central and southern Peninsula, which brought some relief to the dry conditions.

Umatilla and Okahumpka reported around an inch and a half from these storms while Brooksville recorded about an inch. Although Miami recorded nearly three inches for the week, Ft. Lauderdale received about half an inch and Homestead recorded only about two tenths.

However, the showers dropped only traces to half an inch of rain in most localities with Balm, Immokalee, Marianna, Pensacola, Putnam Hall, and Sebring reporting no measurable rain for the week.

The storms produced hail, especially in Desoto and Glades counties.

Temperatures for the week averaged three degrees below normal to three degrees above in the major cities. Daytime highs averaged in the 80s with many stations reporting at least one high in the 90s. Nighttime lows were in the 50s, 60s, and 70s with several Panhandle and a few northern Peninsula localities recording at least one low in the 40s.

The danger for wildfire is high in all areas. As of Sunday evening, active fires totaled 237 and covered 164,226 acres according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Forestry. Smoke from these fires closed some roads due to poor visibility and lowered air quality over most of the state.

Peanut and cotton planting in irrigated fields remained active during the week. However, the lack of rain in some Panhandle areas, especially in Jackson County, caused peanut and cotton planting to come to a standstill while most of the irrigated acreage has been planted.

Recent, intermittent showers in the western Panhandle, especially in Santa Rosa County, helped keep soil moisture in dryland fields adequate for planting with some peanuts already germinated. Statewide, peanut planting increased to 25 percent finished compared with 19 percent done by May 14th last year, and the five-year average planting progress of 29 percent.

Winter wheat is in very good condition in the western Panhandle. Corn acreage planted is significantly above average in the western Panhandle. However, dry soils in other Panhandle and northern Peninsula areas prevented some corn planting and some growers returned seed to suppliers.

Soil moisture supplies are mostly very short to short in the Panhandle and southern Peninsula, very short to short in the northern Peninsula, and very short in the Big Bend area.

Small areas of adequate soil moisture were reported in Santa Rosa, Polk, and Jackson counties.

Vegetable harvesting increased in central and northern areas as southern Peninsula harvesting slowed seasonally. Most growers are picking to meet the Memorial Day demand. In the Gadsden County area, drought continued to slow the growth of crops.

In the Suwannee Valley area, cucumber, squash, and organic vegetable harvests started despite the pollution from wildfire smoke. In Jackson County, irrigated vegetables are in good condition; however, dryland watermelon stands are thin with plants coming up poorly; some stands are as much as three weeks behind schedule.

Other vegetables and non citrus fruit marketed during the week included snap beans, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupes, celery, sweet corn, eggplant, okra, peppers, radishes, and watermelons.

Also, very small amounts of endive, escarole, lettuce, parsley, and strawberries were harvested with the season near the end for all.


The State experienced warm temperatures and scattered showers this past week, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office. Average highs were in the

80s. Lows ranged from the upper 40s to the lower 60s.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms provided little relief from the drought. However, some of the driest areas to the south still did not receive any rain. Soil moisture conditions were rated at 57 percent very short, 32 percent short, 11 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms were welcomed, but the rainfall was not enough to improve crop conditions.

Deterioration continued for all crops, pastures, and hayfields not being irrigated. Hay and grazing shortages persisted. Some farmers harvested rye and oats to feed livestock.

There has been talk of cattle producers culling cows and selling yearlings early. Nearly all land preparation and planting has stopped due to dry soils. Wild fires continued to burn in south Georgia. They have caused tremendous timber and wildlife loss.

Due to the dry conditions, growers began dusting in crops while continuing to irrigate where possible. Small grain harvest was just getting under way.

County Extension Agents reported an average of 6.3 days suitable for fieldwork.


For the second week in a row, generally dry weather provided ample opportunities for Tennessee farmers to make significant progress with their field activities.

Farmers concentrating on planting cotton and cutting hay made substantial advances over the week earlier to move progress for these crops well ahead of the five-year average.

Almost two-thirds of the state's cotton has been planted, nearly a week ahead of normal. Similarly, farmers making their first cutting of hay were able to more than double their progress from the week earlier.

Although hay and pasture conditions improved slightly, most areas remain dry and need a good general rain.

Corn planting was virtually completed last week with over 90 percent of the acreage emerged.

Virtually all of the state's wheat has headed out.

Soybean planting continued to speed along with just over a quarter of the acreage in the ground.

Other field activities last week included transplanting tobacco and applying post-emergent herbicides and nitrogen to corn.

There were 6 days considered suitable for fieldwork last week.

As of Friday, topsoil moisture levels were rated 5 percent very short, 37 percent short, 56 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 9 percent very short, 43 percent short, 47 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus. Temperatures last week averaged 5 to 12 degrees above normal across the state. Rainfall was below normal for the entire state, despite numerous afternoon showers and thunderstorms which occurred much of the week.

County agent comments

"Cotton planting got into full swing this week and last week and most everything is up to a decent stand. Warmer, drier weather has aided getting good stands. Grain sorghum planting got under way this week also. We are maybe slightly ahead of normal planting schedule." (Tim Campbell, Dyer County)

"Producers made good progress this week with excellent weather conditions. Corn producers finished planting and/or replanting their acreage, especially river bottom fields. Producers are also making good progress in side-dressing their corn with additional nitrogen. Postemerge herbicide applications were made this week as corn and weeds are making excellent growth with the warmer temperatures." (Jeff Lannom, Weakley County)

"First cutting of hay is coming up about 50 percent short of normal. Tobacco setting is beginning right on schedule. Late corn planting is well under way. We are very dry and really need rain." (Ronnie Barron, Cheatham County)

"Wheat is being cut for hay. Some grass hay is being cut. Slug damage reported in greenhouse and float bed tobacco transplants. Weed pressure reported in corn due to poor herbicide activation or deactivation due to weather." (David K. Glover, Smith County)

"We are in need of a good sustained rain. Soils down deep are extremely dry for this time of year. Pasture and hay is not responding to fertilizer due to lack of adequate moisture. Corn is growing slowly. A few rare wheat fields have headed out and have potential for about a 40 percent to 50 percent crop." (Dean Northcutt, Coffee County)

North Carolina

Scattered showers were experienced in most areas of North Carolina. The calendar year's first named storm, Andrea, created some precipitation for the state.

There were 5.7 days suitable for field work last week compared to the 5.9 days from the previous week. Statewide, soil moisture levels are rated at 7 percetn very short, 41 percent short, 49 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus. Activities during the week included the planting of cotton, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and tobacco.

First cutting of hay and truck crop harvest continue to progress.


The Commonwealth experienced more seasonable weather this past week with an average temperature of 63 degrees. Days suitable for field work were 5.6.

Topsoil moisture was adequate.

Cool temperatures slowed down some crops and pasture growth. Grain producers continued scouting for cereal leaf beetles, aphids and diseases. Producers continued to treat wheat fields for powdery mildew and disease.

Some farmers finished planting corn and were readying equipment to make sidedress applications.

Some early soybeans have been planted, some producers were waiting for the weather to warm up before planting full-season soybeans.

Strawberry and asparagus harvests continued.

Other farm activities included: fence and barn repairs, shearing sheep, liming and fertilizing meadows and hay making.

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