Ag News

Dry conditions balloon to cover nearly all the state

by Jay Stone

Posted on Jul 11, 2024 at 4:05 AM

In the span of three weeks – from June 11 to July 3 – some level of drought has spread from 25 counties around Metro Atlanta to 158 counties statewide. Only Candler County and most of Evans, Montgomery, Toombs and significant parts of Bulloch, Liberty, Screven and Tattnall showed normal moisture levels according to the July 3 report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Of the 158 abnormally dry counties, moderate drought conditions were reported in all or part of 104 counties. Another 16 counties’ drought conditions had progressed to severe drought, the third of five levels of dryness intensity on the U.S. Drought Monitor scale.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), both Atlanta (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and Macon (102 degrees) tied record high temperatures on June 26. Through the month of June, Georgia temperatures were two degrees above normal. The NWS July outlook, issued on June 20, predicted that most of the state had a 60-70% chance of higher-than-normal temperatures, but most of the state had a 30-60% chance of greater-than-normal amounts of precipitation.

Corn plants normally green during the summer have turned to light yellow if they are not under irrigation. Additionally, with parched pastures in many areas, livestock owners resorted to feeding hay to their animals according to published reports.

UGA Agricultural Climatologist Pam Knox wrote in the July 3 post of the Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast blog that some crops may already be lost.

Knox said the current drought is considered a “flash drought,” or rapid onset drought.

“It is a rapid onset drought where the conditions get worse very quickly,’ Knox told GFB media.  “That certainly is the characteristic we've seen this year, where if you look at the drought monitor, the categories are changing by one category a week, which is in a few cases I think even two categories in a week.”

Knox noted that the drought has hit corn particularly hard, explaining that extensive rains in April and May delayed planting for many farmers, pushing back the growth of the corn plants.

“The really dry conditions have hit at a very bad time, especially for corn because corn needs moisture when it’s pollinating and a lot of the dry land corn just looks pretty miserable. When I've driven around, there's a lot of dead leaves on it and it just does not look healthy. If it's too dry and it's too hot, the silk dries out and the pollen won't stick to it. And so, you can lose most of the yield of your kernels on your ears within a couple of weeks if you don't get any rain.”

Knox said shifting weather patterns should bring some moisture to the Southeast over the later part of July.

Dry land cotton growers have struggled with the effects of the drought, as well.

Cook County cotton grower Justin Shealey, who works as the county Extension coordinator in Echols County, estimated 70-80% of South Georgia growers – whether they farm with or without irrigation – had to delay planting because of the wet spring weather, too.

“We had some problems on the front end with getting the stand,” Shealey said. “I mean, emergence was horrible.”

In some cases, fertilizer that was put out prior to planting was washed away. Then, Shealey said, some farmers planted into what turned out to be insufficient moisture.

“You scratch down, you look at it and you think you're putting it in good moisture,” he said. Then, when planting, there is moisture loss when the furrow is opened and the seed is dropped in. “I mean it's amazing how much moisture you could lose there and that's where you get to the point where you don’t have enough moisture.”

To view the latest Georgia Drought Monitor conditions map, click here.

  • Categories:
  • Tags: