Weather Can Take Crops Either Way In South Carolina

Crop season is on the edge right now, with moisture and heat to play a vital role in final yield.

Published on: Jul 9, 2012

Entering July, South Carolina farmers are "having a heat wave," but they don't feel like singing or doing any light-hearted Fred Astaire steps to celebrate it. The fact is, South Carolina weather has left a lot to be desired in crop fields this year. At the same time, the situation has definitely improved compared to the extreme drought of 2011, says Tre Coleman, director of cotton and tobacco programs with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

So far heat and drought damage has been limited this year, Coleman says; perhaps the heat has even been helpful for some. That has to do with the course the weather has taken over the last year or so.

ALL WET: Tre Coleman of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture says growers in the state are installing more irrigation systems like this one to offset repetitive droughts. Irrigation can make all the difference in years like this one when success or failure for the season may depend on one or two timely rains.
ALL WET: Tre Coleman of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture says growers in the state are installing more irrigation systems like this one to offset repetitive droughts. Irrigation can make all the difference in years like this one when success or failure for the season may depend on one or two timely rains.

"We didn't really have any winter rains but we did have a lot of spring rains," Coleman explains. "The moisture had gotten almost excessive in some areas. Then, of course, this heat wave took most of that surface water off."

On July 1 some bad storms hit the state. There was rain in some areas but there was probably more lightning, damaging wind and hail than rain from those storms. Overall, the heat wave and the lack of overall moisture seems to be the trump card; that is, having more effect than the storms.

"It (heat and lack of moisture) is definitely affecting the tobacco crop – and the corn crop, too," Coleman says, "We started out the season with as good a chance with our corn as we've had in some time, but over the last couple of weeks the crop has declined some, just because of the lack of rain.

We got some heat stress and since it didn't rain for almost two weeks at that high, high temperature it affected both the corn and the double-cropped beans, too."

Still, count your blessings where you find them. Coleman notes farmers made it a lot further this year than in 2011 when it seemed they went "forever" without any rain. For farmers forever, is July or August without rain. By then the corn crop and the tobacco crop were "pretty much gone," he says. Growers did salvage a 2011 cotton crop, however.

Still, Coleman says that if growers get some rains from this point going forward, they can still make decent yields and quality on all their row crops this year.

"I think so," he says. "We got good stands this year. That is a good start."

Besides, he adds, more growers have been putting in irrigation, and that what may be just what is needed to give them the edge they need.

That may be the real trump card, for those that have it in their hand to play it.

Get the complete picture of moisture conditions across the country by visiting the U.S. Drought Monitor at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/.