Category Archives: Weather

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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December Row Crop Disease Update

A few things to think about with regards to disease and nematode management in preparation for the 2017 field season.

La Nina:  Our UGA Extension climatologist Pam Knox has good information available on our current conditions, but here are my thoughts:

We are currently in a “weak” La Nina situation, “weak” because the equatorial waters of the cost of Ecuador are more than a half degree COOLER than normal.  As best I can tell, the waters have been about 7/10 of a degree cooler which barely qualifies as a La Nina (as opposed to last year where we had a robust and sure-enough El Nino).  So what does this mean? During La Nina years, the Southeast tends to (“tends to” means more often than not, but not always..) experience warmer and drier winters. Because we have a weak La Nina, this forecast could change.

Pigweed seedhead in broccoli before Thanksgiving. We are yet to have frost to knock back pigweed growth.

Pigweed seedhead in broccoli before Thanksgiving. We are yet to have frost to knock back pigweed growth.

How does our current “La Nina” impact our recommendations?

  1.  Drier is not a good thing as it may mean we don’t fill up irrigation ponds for next year.  It my mean we have a lot of trouble establishing cover crops this fall.
  2.  Warmer temperatures may mean that kudzu, volunteer peanuts, corn, cotton-regrowth, etc. pathogens (like those that cause soybean rust and southern corn rust) may survive and increase longer than they would with an earlier “killing” frost.  Also, as long as the crops and volunteers are active in the field, nematode populations can continue to increase and build.  This will lead to larger populations for next season. Once the plants are killed, the nematodes can no longer feed. Once soil temps drop below 65F, the activity of the todes drops off as well.
  3.  We may get some very cold weather soon, so we may not need to worry that much; however the general prediction is that we will have a warmer winter.
  4.  The weather this winter will have some effect on TSWV and insects for next year.  It remains to be seen what and how… but it will impact them.

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Warm March

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Though we did experience some cool weather last month, March was still warmer and drier than normal. We saw soil temperatures approach 65 degrees a few times. We didn’t have a freeze at Easter. Our satsumas have benefited from this warm weather and are in full bloom now. This helps our neighbor’s peach crop in Brooks County as well. Warm weather has also given us good planting conditions for corn. University of Georgia Extension Climatologist Pam Knox has this update on March temperatures:

March was drier and warmer than normal across Georgia, ushering in projections for a warmer and wetter than normal spring.

Warm conditions statewide caused early blooming of many trees and flowers, leading to very high pollen counts, which were not helped by the lack of rain needed to wash away the pollen. Early blooming in the northeastern part of the state led the National Weather Service to start issuing frost warnings there earlier than usual because of farmers’ concerns about the fruit trees.

In spite of the cold weather in late March, most fruit trees across Georgia were not affected by frost, and a good and flavorful peach crop is expected this year unless a very late frost occurs in April.

The lack of rainfall caused abnormally dry conditions across the state. This allowed farmers to get into the fields to plant and apply chemical, but dry conditions caused some concerns for germinating crops.

Wet conditions in the southwest corner of the state hampered farmers’ ability to work in the fields and led to the development of some fungal diseases by the end of the month.

The outlook for April does show colder temperatures in the beginning of the month, but a return to warmer conditions later. Precipitation is expected to be above normal for the first half of the month, but drier conditions may return in the last two weeks.

Warm March

Georgia saw well above normal temperatures in March, ranging from 3 to 6 degrees above the 1981-2010 average.

  • In Atlanta, Georgia, the monthly average temperature was 60.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 6.2 degrees above normal;
  • the Athens, Georgia, average was 59.9 F, 5.6 degrees above normal;
  • the Columbus, Georgia, average was 61.9 F, 4.1 degrees above normal;
  • the Macon, Georgia average was 61.1 F, 4.3 degrees above normal;
  • the Savannah, Georgia, average was 65.0 F, 5.8 degrees above normal;
  • the Brunswick, Georgia, average was 64.9 F, 4.6 degrees above normal;
  • the Alma, Georgia, average was 63.6 F, 3.4 degrees above normal;
  • the Augusta, Georgia, average was 60.8 F, 4.9 degrees above normal;
  • the Albany, Georgia, average was 63.7 F, 4.5 degrees above normal;
  • the Rome, Georgia, average was 56.8 F, 4.7 degrees above above normal;
  • the Valdosta, Georgia, average was 64.7 F, 4.6 degrees above normal.

Multiple records for daytime high temperatures were set on March 15 across the state. Atlanta reported 85 F; Athens, 86 F; Alma, 87 F; and Columbus, 87 F, breaking the old records of 82 F, 85 F, 86 F and 86 F, respectively, all set in 2012.

Macon also tied its record of 87 F on the same day, and Augusta, Savannah and Brunswick tied records on or near that date. Brunswick also broke a record high on March 14, recording 84 F, which surpassed the old record of 83 F set in 1975.

 

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More Rain

As of Friday, reports from growers were that they were able to get in the field and rip higher ground. Rain started again Friday evening, and it gave us five inches in all parts of the county that I hear. This looks like it will set us back another few days from getting back in the field. The sun came out Saturday afternoon, and we’ve had nothing but sunshine since then. Actually, reports are that some put out some fertilizer yesterday and today.

I wanted to show a picture or two of some of the water. There is a creek or branch above us that feeds water into our lake. Our house sits on the edge of the dam with a little spillway. The water running over the spillway woke us up Saturday morning. Here is what it looks like normally and then with water.

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Normal

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Rain water

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Rain water

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El Nino Update

Here is an update on weather conditions from UGA Extension Climatologist Pam Knox:

The climate of Georgia this winter has been strongly influenced by El Nino, which is related to cooler and wetter conditions than usual in the Southeast in the winter and spring when an El Nino is occurring. While December did not follow the pattern this year, the rest of winter has settled into a more typical El Nino regime. This is expected to continue through spring, which may mean wet conditions in the fields for the next few months. This may lead to delays in planting which could hurt yield, according to the peanut planting date tool at www.agroclimate.org

El Nino is already starting to diminish and is expected to return to neutral conditions by May or June before swinging to the opposite phase, La Nina, later this summer. La Nina is associated with dry and warm conditions, which could hurt crop development later in the growing season, but could help with harvest. The only exception is in areas that are hit by tropical storms, which are often more numerous in La Nina years.  If a La Nina does develop, next winter is likely to be warmer and drier than usual, leading to the possibility of drought returning to the Southeast in 2017.

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El Niño Update

Here is a climate update from UGA Extension Climatologist Pam Knox:

If you’ve been following the news this year, you already know that we are in the middle of one of the strongest El Niños since the 1950s.  An El Niño is a climate event related to a weakening of the trade winds in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the movement of sun-warmed surface water eastward towards the coasts of Peru and Ecuador.  Thunderstorms that develop over the warm water divert the subtropical jet to the north. 

In this year’s El Niño, the jet has pushed one storm after another across the Florida peninsula as well as Alabama and Georgia, leading to unusually wet conditions across many areas.  Normally, when we have an El Niño, our temperatures are cooler than normal due to the extra-cloudy conditions.  However, this (past) December was way above normal in temperature when Arctic air that normally makes it down to the Southeast, got trapped near the poles.  Since the beginning of January, our temperatures have returned to more normal winter conditions.

What is next for El Niño? 

It looks like the warming is near its peak, as expected, and the predictions are for a rapid decline to neutral conditions.  This could occur by late spring but are more likely in early summer.  And after that?  Five of the last six strong El Niños have swung to the opposite phase, a La Niña. This could occur by mid- to late summer.

What does this mean for peanut growers in the Southeast?

Continuing rains from the current El Niño are likely to give us ample soil moisture going into the spring.  This may cause problems getting into some fields that are prone to wet conditions.  The first part of the summer should have plenty of rain.  However, once the La Niña kicks in, drier than normal conditions are expected all the way through fall.  That will help with harvest but might make drought more likely.

The one wild-card in this forecast is the effect of tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean basin.  La Niñas are often associated with above-normal number of Atlantic hurricanes.  If you are in the path of one of those storms, you could see a lot of rain even if the storm is not that strong.  But it’s far too early to predict where those storms are likely to go, so plan for dry conditions later in the summer unless a storm heads for your farm.

The La Niña is likely to last through next winter, which means warmer and drier conditions may occur next November through March.

If you want to see the impacts of El Niño and La Niña on peanut production, you can use http://www.agroclimate.org and view maps of peanut yield by El Niño phase.

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Cold Weather Welcome

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We had a few frosts this week. With record warm temperatures in December, this cold is going to help some of our winter crops claim some chill hours. We’ve also been having plenty of rain as El Nino was predicted. Here are some screen shots of rain, temperatures and chill hours from the Dixie weather station from www.georgiaweather.net. You can see how much lower chill hours are as were last winter this far. The ’12 to ’13 winter was also warm.

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Chill Hours

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Temperature

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Rainfall

Small Grain/Forage

Our forage crops look okay and hearing some good reports. We need to watch some of our forage now as cool temperatures are going to come back this weekend and next week. Oats, of course, are more susceptible to the cold damage.  Some cattlemen are fertilizing forage after heavy grazing to encourage new growth. Ryegrass is one of our small grains that has 3-way split, with one fertilization through the winter. Everything else we fertilize once at planting and then before spring to encourage more tiller growth. We may want to be careful with management inputs during these upcoming cold hits. Below is the forage recommendation fact sheet from the UGA Soil Test Handbook:

WinterGrazingFertilizer-FactSheet

Here are some oats I looked at today. Overall, they look good. Fields are wet and we need to watch for compaction. And we need to watch our grazing. To determine when to pull cows off, we look at the node or joint inside the stem of the plant. This is the growing point, and it feels like a bump or bee bee inside the stem. We don’t want them to graze lower than the growing point. In the picture below the joint is between my thumb and the roots.

Joint in oats

Joint in oats

I also see a little crown rust showing up. These orange/red pustules on the leaf resemble that of aphid feeding. The rust pustules will rub off on your finger. They are also raised above the leaf.

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Pustules of crown rust in oats

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Crown Rust

Aphid Feeding

Aphid Feeding

Crown rust will cut back on yield even in grazing, so we have to graze heavily when rust is seen so we remove the leaf tissue where spores land.

Citrus

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Some crops are not going to appreciate the cold. Thomas County has 2,500 citrus trees in commercial production now – mostly Satsumas. The biggest challenge for citrus north of Florida is cold protection. Certain plants handle cold more than others. Satsumas have the greatest degree of cold hardiness. Bearing satsumas can withstand temperatures as low as 19º to 20ºF without considerable wood damage. (Citrons, lemons and limes, on the contrary, are most easily killed by freezing temperatures – as low as upper 20s.)

I took a picture of these satsumas Tuesday morning. The temperature that morning was 29 degrees. Once temperatures get down to 24 and 25, they will cut on the irrigation as a form of cold protection. Previous cool weather allowed the plants for some cold acclimation. Cold acclimation is very important for citrus. The sudden, hard freezes in November 2014 hurt us so much more, because plants were essentially not ready for the cold. A few nights in the upper 20s is good for our citrus.

Cold damage always takes some time to show up. Lowndes County Agent, Jake Price, gave a good talk on cold damage at the Satsuma meeting this week. There are a few types of cold damage we may see. Sometimes damage occurs on the leaves only. If damage is on the stem, it is worse. If the plant incurs cold damage on the leaves, it may drop those leaves. This is a good sign since the plant has to be alive to drop the leaves. If cold damage occurs and leaves do not drop, this is not good news. Here are some pictures of cold damage. The darker green is cold damage:

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Cold damage on Satsuma – Photo by Jake Price

 

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Cold damage on Satsuma – Photo by Jake Price

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