Georgia drought free, suffering from overabundance of rain
By David Pendered
For the second consecutive week, Georgia is free of drought conditions. The weather story of this summer has been so much rain that it hindered the crop harvest in north and south Georgia, according to state and federal reports.
In metro Atlanta, rainfall amounts exceeded the average in January, April, May, and June, according to a report by the Metropolitan North Georgia Planning District.
A total of 23.9 inches of rain fell on Atlanta from Jan. 1 through June 4, according to a report by the planning district. That’s 2.72 inches more than the 30-year average. It does not account for heavy rains in June and July that were cited by the National Centers for Environmental Information.
The scenario facing farmers this summer is fairly dramatic:
- Several wheat fields in north Georgia were lost to wetness, according to the NCEI.
- The watermelon harvest in south Georgia got off to a profitable start, until heavy rains in June and July prompted farmers to leave melons in the fields, according to scientists at the University of Georgia. Water-related diseases that reduced the melons’ quality were the real problem.
- The heavy rains impacted winter wheat harvesting, hay cutting and soybean planting in portions of Georgia, according to the NCEI.
The current drought-free period is the first since April 15, 2014 that the entire state has been free of drought conditions, according to records maintained by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Drought conditions existed across the entire state on Nov. 22, 2016 and for the following two weeks, records show. At that time, more than half the state was in extreme drought conditions, and a third of Georgia was covered by exceptional drought conditions.
Lake Lanier’s water level is about 5.5 feet below its full pool level of 1,071 feet above sea level. The moderate drought conditions that were removed in early July contributed to the lake level being lower than on the same dates in 2016 and 2015, by 1 and two feet, respectively, according to a report on uslakes.info.
Some of the wettest conditions in the southeast were reported in south Georgia in July, according to the NCEI.
The July rains followed heavy rain in June, which impacted the watermelon harvest in south Georgia, according to a report in Growing Georgia. The story quoted Tim Coolong, a vegetable horticulturist at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service:
- “’I think it didn’t affect the first harvest or the second harvest so much, but when some harvest crews went in for a third or fourth harvest, that is when I think a lot of the rain caused issues. Given the disease pressure caused by the rain, growers decided to leave more melons in the field than they typically would have in order to avoid running into problems.’
- “Farmers reported damage from phytophthora, a pathogen that attacks the fruit of watermelon plants and makes them unmarketable, he said. Other producers experienced issues due to gummy stem blight, a fungal disease that causes lesions on leaves, which can reduce canopy cover and, eventually, yields.”