Many state fields stay dry, producers hoping for rain

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

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.

Corn, Cotton, Peanuts, Soybeans

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 has completely burned up, while other stands looked promising. James D. Jones, Jr., County Extension Coordinator for Henry County, reported that rainfall was needed across the county, and that the dry land 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.

Fruit and Vegetables

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 that the primary factor that led to the shortage in supply was the freeze in late March. Producers that 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 dry land crops varied depending on the amount of rainfall received.

Pasture, Hay, Livestock

Pasture conditions decline slightly, as most areas of the state were dry until later in the week. 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 that 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, stated that 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.