A third of Georgia counties under drought conditions
By Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
A total of 57 Georgia counties are experiencing moderate or severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released on May 12.
Three counties - Bryan, Chatham and Effingham – had at least some portion of their area under the D2 (severe drought) designation, including all of Chatham and most of Effingham. Across the southern and east central portions of the state, 52 counties had D1, or moderate, drought. An additional 19 counties were under D0, or abnormally dry, conditions.
Also on May 12, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) report, in which the agency indicated that the current La Niña pattern is expected to last until late in the year.
UGA Climatologist Pam Knox wrote in her climate blog that the extended La Niña pattern would likely mean warmer and drier conditions across the South. Knox pointed out that spring ENSO updates tend to be less reliable than those in other periods of the year because of the volatility of spring weather.
“In the Southeast, the wild card is the Atlantic tropical season, since La Niña years are also associated with more tropical systems than usual,” Knox wrote.
Meanwhile, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its first crop production report of 2022 on May 12, and the state’s on-farm hay stocks have dropped dramatically, from 290,000 tons on May 1, 2021, to 190,000 tons on May 1, 2022.
According to UGA Extension Forage Specialist Lisa Baxter, the drought is compounding other challenges hay producers faced entering 2022.
“It’s going to be a hard year,” Baxter said. “We’ve been saying that for a while. What most people are usually thinking about is that it decreases forage production overall, and we know that. But I think we’re going to see a bigger decrease than just hay produced because of other challenges, like high input costs and decreased hay reserves.”