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Persistent rains end drought in Georgia, as farmers say too much has harmed crops

flooded farmland

Even before Hurricane Michael arrived, soybeans were underwater near Plains because of unusually heavy and persistent spring rains. File/Credit: Sidney Cromer/UGA

By David Pendered

A saying from rural South Georgia goes, “The farmer prays for rain, while the golfer prays for sunshine.” This year, many Georgia farmers report the persistent rains through May have damaged crops, even as the national drought report issued today shows the rains have eliminated drought conditions across the state.

flooded farmland

Soybeans are underwater near Plains because of heavy and persistent spring rains. Credit: Sidney Cromer/UGA

Their accounts read like a farmer’s diary, as presented in the Georgia Crop Progress and Condition Report, which is produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The growing season appears to have started fairly well, according to comments posted in April by the University of Georgia’s extension agents, who are posted across the state and speak regularly with farmers in their counties.

But as the season continued, reports of too much rain became a theme. While rainfall varies across the state, a focus on comments about rain indicates an overabundance of rain has had an effect on agriculture.

This is a snapshot of the reports this growing season from county extension agents:

  • April 2: “Tattnall County received some much needed rain on Friday. Growers are busy planting corn and watermelon. Onion harvest is nearing for earlier maturing varieties. The onion crop looks promising at this point.” – Chris Tyson, Tattnall County
  • April 9: “Floyd County needs a few dry days. Corn planting is being delayed.” – Keith Mickler, Floyd County
  • April 16: “Considerable rainfall on Sunday caused flash flooding in low areas and overly saturated fields.” – Ashley Hoppers, Liberty County

    Persistent rains have eliminated drought conditions across the entire state of Georgia, according to a report released Thursday. Credit: droughtmonitor.unl.edu

  • April 23: “Cotton and peanut planting really picked up late in the week, but the storm this Sunday will probably keep farmers out of the fields for the next day or two. “ – Andrew Warner, Seminole County
  • April 30: “There was abundant rain during first part of week, followed by dry, warm weather. Strawberries were ripening. Some blueberries had good berry formation, and color change was evident.” – Heather Kolich, Forsyth County
  • May 7: Conditions turned hot and dry. Grady County has a significant amount on dryland corn that is in desperate need of rain. Non-irrigated cotton and peanut planting will stop soon as a result of inadequate soil moisture. The dry weather has significantly impacted pasture and hayfield conditions too.” – Ty Torrance, Grady County
  • May 14: “We went from cool and wet to hot and dry very quickly. Planters have been going nonstop in irrigated fields, but dryland farmers are having to wait on a rain because the soil is hard and dry. Many producers in our area are going to have to replant cotton. Cool soils hindered good plant populations at germination for many fields. Other fields had adequate moisture for germination and then lost moisture as the seed sprouted, so the plants died. It has been a crazy spring, but this is perfect dry- down weather for winter grains. We should see harvest begin next week in many fields.” – Seth McAllister, Terrell County
    flooded farmland, peanuts

    Peanut plants are underwater in a field near Plains. Credit: Sidney Cromer/UGA

  • May 21: “Peanut and cotton planting have stopped due to wet conditions. Rain and wet conditions have started to affect wheat, oats, and rye. Some growers have not been able to make side dress fertilizer applications to corn.” – Peyton Sapp, Burke County
  • May 29: “Rain over the last week has made a challenge in herbicide applications in cotton and peanuts. Corn is progressing at a fast rate. Growers are trying to plant dryland fields if they received rain. Rain is making small grain harvest a challenge.” – Jeremy Kichler, Colquitt County
  • June 4: “Intense rains and isolated heavy winds have caused severe injury to corn and created a situation where planting of cotton and peanuts has been significantly delayed.” – Jay Porter, Pulaski County
  • June 11: “County received scattered rain showers. Growers are back in the fields planting, spraying herbicides and harvesting small grains. Some wheat fields have sprouted grain, causing farmers to receive feed wheat prices. Haying was going wide open as fields dried out from all the rain in May. Some growers have decided not to plant peanuts and are planting soybeans and cotton instead. Some corn fields pollinating. Corn growers are irrigating corn. Growers are thankful for sunshine.” – Raymond Joyce, Laurens County
    flooded farm, cantalopes

    Cantalops are underwater in a field near Tifton. Credit: Tim Coolong, UGA

  • June 18: “Still trying to get spray equipment in some fields of peanuts and cotton that are still too wet to spray. Also have some fields that are too wet to plant and time is running out.” – Tony Barnes, Atkinson County
  • June 25: “The rain shut off hard and fast. The last few farmers are scrambling to finish planting just a mere handful of acres and a couple of fields that had to be replanted for various reasons. Soils are drying down fast and pivots are running hard to finish out corn and get fertilizer soaked into the cotton that is being spread. Peanuts are really starting to peg now and many cotton fields are squaring as well. Some growth regulators have been put on cotton already. One more good rain event would really help finish our corn crop. This week is also the first week land plaster was put out on any significant acreage of peanuts.” – Seth McAllister, Terrell County
  • July 26: “The cotton crop is progressing fast. Rain over the weekend has made weed control a challenge in cotton and peanuts. The corn crop is progressing fast. Hay production has been hampered by wet weather.” – Jeremy Kichler, Colquitt County
  • July 9: “Many cotton fields that were planted either got washed out in spots due to heavy rains or have been under severe deer pressure. The fields that did not get too much rain during planting have emerged very well and are doing great with no thrips pressure earlier this year. Overall the cotton crop looks great.” – Ben Cantrell, Effingham County


David Pendered

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 for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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