drought, lake, edit
Cropped version for homepage: Lake levels in Northwest Georgia had fallen precipitously in the drought that closed its grip on the state over the summer. This dock on a lake near Cloudland Canyon couldn't be used in mid October to access the lake. Credit: Kelly Jordan

By David Pendered

Recent rains were too little, too late and came at the wrong time to help Georgia’s cotton and peanut farmers, but winter grains crops will benefit. The drought maps that have become so commonplace don’t specifically address weather effects on the state’s agriculture industry.

The recent rains eased drought conditions in North Georgia, where lake levels had reached considerable lows, as at this lake near Cloudland. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Jacqueline Moore didn’t have to ponder Friday when asked if the rain were of much help. Moore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy regional director for the southern region who’s based in South Carolina’s Uplands, observed:

  • “Yes and no.
  • “The rains are too late to help peanut, soybean and cotton crops. … The farmers are trying to harvest and now it’s raining, which hinders the harvest.
  • “This rain will be good for wheat, oats, barley they’re trying to plant for winter. It also will green up some pastures, or give a little more moisture, before we get a freeze that kills everything.”

This isn’t to say the rains didn’t have a beneficial impact on the state’s widespread drought – they did. Precipitation estimates for the state ranged from trace amounts to 5 inches, according to a USDA report.

The proportion of the state that has no drought conditions increased from zero percent to 3.9 percent, according to the latest report by the National Drought percent Mitigation Center. Still, an estimated 80 percent of Georgia’s residents are in a drought area.

Moore’s observations regarding the effect of rains on Georgia’s agriculture industry are borne out in weekly a diary of federal reports on Georgia crop conditions. It’s part of a state-by-state report the USDA issues weekly on topics ranging from temperature and precipitation, to crop planting progress, development and harvesting.

The recent rains eased drought conditions across most of Georgia, but most of North Georgia remains dry. Credit: National Drought Monitor

In Georgia’s ag world, farmers are still trying to harvest nearly half the cotton crop, half the soybean crop, 80 percent of the pecan crop and 17 percent of the peanut crop, according to the USDA’s crop report.

Here are some of the insights county extension agents provided in the latest edition of the Crop Progress and Condition Report:

Nathan Eason, White County

  • “Fescue pastures were quickly recovering from the drought. Cattlemen and hay producers were seeding winter annuals. Harvesting concluded for soybeans and wine grapes.”

Bobby Solomon, Talbot County

  • “The drought continued, and the soil was too dry to plant winter grazing. Livestock producers continually provided supplemental feeding. Most producers will deplete their winter hay storage earlier than normal.”

Seth McAllister, Terrell County

  • “We finally felt some fall weather. Light showers over a couple of days were just enough to hamper the cotton harvest. The latest planted cotton fields were defoliated, and if weather patterns improve, farmers could be done picking cotton by mid-November. Peanuts were also finishing up, but rain really deteriorated some of the vine integrity of the peanuts yet to be picked. Rain helped to settle some dust, but it came too late to help the crop any. Now that temperatures have dropped, the rain won’t even help the pasture situation. Cattlemen fed hay rations daily. Winter grazing just started to poke out of the ground.”

Ross Greene, Evans County

  • “Evans County was still extremely dry. Rain from Tropical Storm Nester already evaporated. Surface water ponds were extremely low, and producers were about to start Vidalia onion planting with very little water reserves. Cattle producers fed hay and tried to plant winter grazing, but if the county doesn’t receive more rain, then the soil will run out of the moisture needed to get a good stand.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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