Category Archives: Weather

Irma’s Aftermath

We were very fortunate in Thomas County since the eye passed east of us. Our winds were in the 40s with gusts in the 70s. There is still obvious damage to our field crops. Here are some pictures of what we have now:

Peanuts

The only negative effect will be altering our digging time, if the field needed to be dug in that time period. We had some peanuts already inverted, but they are drying and will be picked this week. The soil is drying with a few days of sunny weather.

Cotton

It’s about 50/50 with wind damaged fields. Where wind hit hard, cotton is all tangled up. And any bolls/lint that fell off the plant is for sure lost. This is going to affect us on our picking efficiency and spraying. UGA Extension Cotton Agronomist Dr. Jared Whitaker says, “One thing to consider is that cotton that is just beginning to open is the heaviest it will be throughout its life and when opening proceeds, it will allow the plant to stand up.  However, one thing that I’ve seen that I haven’t in the past with blown over cotton is the “rooting out” around the stem at the ground level due to winds from several different directions. This could complicate the issue of cotton standing up and exacerbate the issue of standing up.”

There is more damage to younger cotton that will not be known at this time. Right now, you see a lot of reddening of the plant at the top. This is from stress, but multiple factors can cause this stress. We looked a blown over field today where it was obvious whiteflies were not treated. You will also notice stemphyllium leaf spot this time of year with loss of potassium. But the wind can also cause this symptom, and will hurt cotton in providing energy to those bolls.

Pecans

UGA Extension Horticulturalist Dr. Lenny Wells’ preliminary estimate is that about 30% of the state’s total pecan crop has been lost. This has become the most damaging wind event ever seen by the Georgia pecan industry. Again, most of the damage east and north of us. In Thomas County, we are a little under that 30% based on what I am seeing.

We mostly have limbs / nuts lost, but also some trees down. These are similar trees we lost with Hurricane Hermine – mostly in that 5 – 15 age range. Here is some more information from Dr. Wells:

Growers should take photos of their damage and report it to their local FSA office in order to receive financial assistance with cleanup. Cleanup funds normally pay 75% of the USDA-set cost of a mature tree ($300) up to a maximum of $200,000 per entity. Younger trees will be valued at varying levels depending upon age. In addition, the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) will pay for tree loss when 15% or more of the orchard is destroyed. This pays 65% of the cost of the tree up to a maximum of $120,000 per entity.

This money is not available immediately but your FSA office will gather your report. Requests for cleanup funds are made to Congress and they will then appropriate the funds so it may take a while.

Growers have many questions regarding how to handle fallen trees and the mass of green nuts blown from the trees. The success of righting blown down trees varies considerably with age of the tree. Trees less than 8-10 years old (trunk diameter < about 10 inches) can generally be righted with pretty good success, if leaning less than 45 degrees. Success rate is highly variable when leaning more than 45 degrees.  Success of righting these trees will be much greater when trees are pruned back as if they were to be transplanted with a tree spade because the newly-limited root system must be able to support the tree that remains. The larger the tree, the more you should prune off when righting.

Uprooted trees or those lying flat on the ground should be removed, especially large, mature trees. Such trees often never perform as they should and will be likely to be blown down again at a later date. Uprooted trees usually exhibit visible broken roots on the side opposite of the direction of fall. The major roots on the opposite side of the tree are also generally broken as well. Such trees usually have much more root damage than is apparent.

I’ve had many questions about salvaging the green nuts blown onto the ground and having them de-shucked. In most cases, the expense involved in this will outweigh  the benefit. While there are a significant number of nuts on the ground, in most cases, the volume will be less than most growers think. Pawnee shucks were splitting or open and many of these nuts came out of the shuck and are on the ground. Many would have been ready for harvest this week so these nuts can be salvaged once the debris is cleaned up. Early October harvest nuts like Caddo, Oconee, Elliott, Moneymaker etc. may be far enough along to attempt de-shucking if growers are inclined to do so. However, they need to bear in mind the cost of an additional harvest, transport, cleaning, and de-shucking when making this decision. Later varieties like Desirable, Stuart, Cape Fear, Sumner,. etc. are likely not mature enough for de-shucking even though the kernels may be filled out. If the nut does not pop out of the shuck when stepped on or rolled with your foot or if the shell is still white and the markings have not developed growers should not attempt de-shucking.

There is potential for further damage to appear at a later date from nuts getting knocked around in the storm. This often bruises or damages the shuck and affects development or maturity of the nut and may lead to stick-tights. However, my early observations are that this bruising is minimal. I do not see a lot of bruising as of yet on the shucks so I am hopeful  but it is still a bit early to tell whether or not we will escape this type of damage.

All in all, the Georgia pecan industry has suffered a significant blow but it could have been much worse than it is given the severity of the storm.

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Temperature & Rainfall Expectations

What should we expect for the next three months? UGA Extension Climatologist Pam Knox has this update:

This has been a beautiful summer, with seasonal temperatures and even some cooler conditions as a couple of cold fronts have passed through the area. Rainfall in most areas has been plentiful, but the high pressure center which has dominated the Southeast recently has meant some fields need rain or are drinking up irrigation.

The current weather pattern – which is causing record high temperatures on the West Coast – is expected to continue for at least the next few weeks. That means seasonal temperatures and more frequent but spotty showers are expected to continue, leading to hit-or-miss conditions in fields across the Southeast. We are also watching the tropics heat up, and with above-normal sea surface temperatures and neutral ENSO conditions, I expect to see more tropical storms forming in the next few weeks as we approach the heart of the season. Of course we can’t predict where those storms will go, so there is no counting on tropical rainfall to help provide water. Temperatures are likely to go back to warmer conditions after mid-August.

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Weather Outlook For July And Beyond

We are blessed with rain these past two months. In some cases, we have more than we want. Drought is almost entirely gone from the Southeastern US at this time. Rainfall across some parts of Georgia were abundant, with rainfalls up to 300% of normal. The rainfall and clouds have also kept the temperatures down below normal by blocking out the sun’s energy. Below is an outlook of what we may expect from here on from UGA Extension Climatologist Pam Knox:

The outlook for July and beyond shows that there is a continued chance of above normal rainfall for the next month, although that abates somewhat later in summer. Temperatures are expected to be closer to normal than in previous seasons, although there is not much skill in making summer forecasts, especially when ENSO conditions are neutral (not El Nino or La Nina). The neutral conditions do make it likely that the Atlantic hurricane season will be more active than usual, so some areas could see a lot of rain from any storms that do materialize, but of course we don’t know where those will go, so areas right along the path could see a lot of rain while others outside the path could see none, similar to what happened in 2016 with Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew across the Southeast. Because of the increased chance of rainfall and the cooler temperatures, I expect that irrigation will be less needed than in some previous years, but of course it depends on the growing stage of the peanuts and the type of soil they are in as well. Whatever rain does come is likely to be in hit-or-miss showers which may cause widely variable conditions across short distances.

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Weather & Disease Update

It’s hard to say we don’t want more rain, but more and more we’re saying just that. We’re having showers nearly every day or every other day, sometimes as much as an inch and a half. It’s starting to show up in the field where cotton is getting ‘wet feet.’ Some of our rain has come with strong winds. Our largest field of tobacco took a hit from these winds knocking plants to the ground in some places. The only hope is to stand it back up as best as possible. It is still causing issues with topping since the flowers on the ground began growing straight up.

We have a good crop of tobacco this year, but it was hit hard from strong winds and rain. Some areas completely blown to the ground.

Flowers turned from wind affects topping

From UGA weather station in Cairo, here are the rain numbers since the beginning of May.

Disease Update

Here is our latest disease update from UGA Extension Pathologist Dr. Bob Kemerait:

Southern Corn Rust: I was stunned when agents in our disease diagnosis class visiting a field in Morgan County found a very active spot of southern rust. Unbelievable because until yesterday, it had ONLY been found lightly in Seminole and Marion Counties. Obviously, as we expected, southern rust could be present anywhere in Georgia now.  Why it has not “exploded” yet is a mystery to me given the conditions we have had, but CLEARLY the spores have spread across the state.

The corn in that field as at hard-dough/early dent, so it does not need to be treated; however growers with later planted corn not yet at R6/dough stages should be aware there is at least some threat.

Target spot of Cotton: Perfect weather but I am NOT calling for an automatic fungicide application at first or at third bloom.  BUT I am saying that every cotton grower SHOULD be aware that these can be important and critical timings. As cotton approaches bloom, I hope growers can put some eyes and boots in the field and begin looking for it, lower leaves first. Weather is very favorable- growers with a history of disease in the field and those with high-input, strong yield potential should be the growers with the greatest chance for benefit. Target spot will not steal the entire crop, but it will take away a valuable portion of the crop.

Consider:  Growth stage (blooming yet?)  history of disease, reports from scouting, (have early symptoms been found?), what’s the weather like now and what is the forecast?  What is the value to the growing in a preemptive application “to be done with it”?

White mold and leaf spot in Peanut: We are seeing some of both.  Growers, don’t get behind!

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Updated Climate Outlook For Summer 2017 And Beyond

Just as we started planting peanuts this week, some growers stopped for lack of moisture. It is very dry and has been for a while. Our last good rain was 3 weeks ago, and subsoil moisture is also low. We’ve been discussing potential weather this year and most talk about the expected heat. But what about other predictions? UGA Extension Climatologist Pam Knox has an update.

In spite of the cold outbreak in mid-March across the Southeast, year-to-date temperatures are in the top five warmest on record for most parts of the peanut-growing region. The average temperatures from January 1st on have been an average of five degrees above normal. The result of that early warming in spring was that many plants came out of winter dormancy almost three weeks earlier than usual.

Rainfall across the area has been somewhat variable, with the year-to-date totals showing below average precipitation, although the first week of April brought flooding rain to many places in the Southeast. The early dryness has caused deficiencies in soil moisture which have led to the development of “abnormally dry” conditions across the region according to the Drought Monitor, although those have been somewhat reduced by the rain last week. Streamflow in many rivers has also been below normal because the early-growing plants sucked up any available moisture that fell, leaving less to move into the ground or run off.

The short-term and long-term outlooks show that temperatures are likely to continue to be above normal. In the near term, our weather is likely to be dominated by high pressure, which will keep skies sunny and temperatures on the warm side. A few passing fronts may drop some showers but no big rain events are currently expected, which may bring abnormally dry soil conditions to the area, especially as warmer temperatures lead to higher evaporation rates.

Over the rest of the growing season, the likelihood of above-normal temperatures continues all the way into next winter. This is based on trends towards warmer temperatures that have occurred across the region from the 1970’s on as well as the absence of a strong El Nino or La Nina. Prediction of precipitation is difficult in neutral conditions, and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center shows equal chances for below, near and above normal precipitation in the next year, indicating their lack of skill. However, they do provide a hint of above normal rainfall in the western Gulf of Mexico region which may be tied to unusually warm waters which are present now in the western Gulf.

ENSO conditions are currently in the neutral phase, which means that no La Nina or El Nino is present. While spring is a tough time to predict the phase of El Nino in the coming fall and winter, climate forecasters currently believe that an El Nino is likely by mid- to late summer. With this in mind, the forecasts for the Atlantic tropical season predicted that there will be fewer than usual storms, because the developing El Nino’s strong subtropical jet stream will “blow the top off” of any developing storms, keeping them from getting strong enough to become full-fledged storms. I think that with the Gulf of Mexico having such warm water temperatures now, we may see some early storms develop in that region, potentially bringing rain to the Southeast as the storms move out of the Gulf. Later in the season – if the El Nino develops as expected – less tropical storm activity is likely, leading to a potential for another dry fall. Of course, as we saw last year with Hurricane Matthew, a single storm can cause all kinds of havoc with winds and flooding rain, so even in a season that is not very active, you can still get tropical impacts.

The bottom line: expect warmer than normal temperatures to continue through most of the growing season (with some breaks for cool incursions from time to time), more rain early in the growing season,and a potential increase in dry conditions later in the year in areas that are not directly affected by any passing tropical storms.

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Pecan Budbreak & Cold Weather

It’s been about two weeks since we observes some budbreak in young pecan trees. We had a day of rain across much of the county this week, and it then dropped to 31 degrees Thursday morning. The picture above is an orchard with frost on the ground. What will happen to our trees now? UGA Extension Horticulturalist Dr. Lenny Wells has this to say:

Those areas with forecasts for 30 degrees or more should be ok. Other areas (North GA) that reach temperatures of 28 degrees or less could see damage to any foliage that may already be out. Fortunately, there is very little of this. I have seen and heard of a little sporadic budbreak here and there—mostly on newly planted or very young trees. Those on which the outer scale has split – and you only see a little green peeking through or the buds are just swollen – should be ok. But, any new growth that has started to lengthen and expand will be most susceptible if temperatures stay at 28 degrees or less for a few hours.

Most mature trees still have buds closed or are barely showing some green (most of this is deep into south Georgia). Those trees on which the buds are still closed should be fine. The level of damage a tree receives in this type of situation is completely dependent upon its level of dormancy.

March 3rd, 2017 – Photo by Mat Thompson

Developing foliage exposed to 28 degrees or less for several hours (usually 3 hours or more) will be burnt off by the freeze. The trees will bud out again, but that will probably wipe out any crop on a mature tree for the year. Since there are not many trees out this far yet, we should be ok. Even those on which we see budbreak only have a small percentage of the shoots breaking bud, so this will help.

The biggest danger will come in the form of cold injury, mostly to younger trees. This damage is usually expressed as longitudinal bark splitting, separation of bark from wood, and sunken areas on trunks, browning of the cambium (the normally bright green tissue normally observed just under the surface of the bark when scraping with a pocket knife), and sparse canopy development. Much of this may not be readily obvious until temperatures heat up in May/June and the water demand increases. The freezing temperatures destroy the cambium cells and the tree then can’t get the water and nutrients it needs. Sometimes the trees may have enough healthy tissue to keep it going for a year or more before it collapses. The more dormant the tree is, the less susceptible it will be. If the sap is rising, there is a risk for cold injury. Trees in low elevation areas will be most susceptible. Any damaged trees will then become more attractive and susceptible to ambrosia beetles, so be vigilant for these as well.

Young Elliot – Photo by Mat Thompson

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Storm Damage & Clean Up Assistance

Saturday a week ago, a tornado came through Thomas County during the night and left a path of destruction to homes and agriculture. We had another storm the following day. Thomas County EMS estimates that around $5 million in damage has occurred ($2M on homes and properties and $2.5 M on farmland and agriculture.)

Agriculture damage included grain bins torn with debris spread through fields. There were a few pivots that were knocked over or completely destroyed. We also saw damage to some pecan orchards once again, as the case with Hurricane Hermine. Growers in the storm’s path have had to pick up lots of debris in fields and repair fences, etc. Here are some photos:

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Growers with damage to their orchards need to take photos of the damage and report it to their local FSA office in order to receive financial assistance with cleanup. Cleanup funds normally pay 75% of the USDA-set cost of a mature tree ($300) up to a maximum of $200,000 per entity. Younger trees will be valued at varying levels depending upon age.

In addition, the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) will pay for tree loss when 15% or more of the orchard is destroyed. This pays 65% of the cost of the tree up to a maximum of $120,000 per entity.

This money is not available immediately but your FSA office will gather your report. Requests for cleanup funds are made to Congress and they will then appropriate the funds so it may take a while.  

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