Abnormally dry: Regional Agronomist give crop updates for North Carolina

by | Jun 28, 2024

As of June 27, the U.S. Drought Monitor listed 57 counties as being in moderate drought conditions and 42 North Carolina counties as being abnormally dry, which means 99 of the state’s 100 counties are significantly dry.

“We have been hearing from a lot of farmers about the dire state of the corn crop and we know the growing conditions continue to deteriorate statewide. Right now we are in a wait and see mode and we all need to pray for rain,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We could see very significant losses for corn.”

The latest crop condition statistics published on July 24 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service confirms what we are hearing, with 17% of corn being described as in very poor condition, 38% in poor condition and 21% in fair condition. Only 23% was reported as in good condition.

“We still have a lot more season to go and some well-timed rain will be beneficial and can help some of these crops rebound and be productive,” Troxler said. “Our farms definitely need some rain for the crops and to help replenish ponds that are being used for irrigation. At this point it is still early in the season, and we do not have any projected production losses, but some good soaking rains could help turn these crops around. With current commodity prices and input expenses, these dry conditions have growers very worried and could be devastating for crops.”

Farmers are encouraged to document their losses and report conditions to their local FSA office, take field photographs and to be in touch with their insurance agents at this stage. Below are crop updates from NCDA&CS regional field agronomists.

Field observations from Regional Agronomists:

From Tristan Morris Region 1- Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Hertford, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans

  • There have been a few scattered showers across the region in the past few days. This has brought some temporary relief but is not enough to completely help the crops recover.
  • Corn: The corn crop ranges from about to tassel all the way through brown silk. Crop height has been stunted and there is yellowing about halfway up the stalk of most of the crop. There are a few spots in the driest areas where the corn is dead. The yield potential has been significantly hurt. The later planted corn would probably recover more than the older corn if it rained in the next few days. Approximately 10% of the crop in my region is irrigated. There is concern about the limited amount of water that is left in ponds and the ability of the wells to keep up.
  • Cotton: The cotton crop is anywhere from 6 true leaves to a few blooms in the oldest fields. Most of the crop has started squaring and is holding on fairly well. The crop is wilting throughout most of the day but would make a great recovery with rain in the next few days. Most of the crop has been top-dressed and has a good color.
  • Tobacco: The tobacco crop is really suffering. Lower leaves are yellowing and burning off. Most of the crop is blooming. Yield potential has been hurt but the crop could make a recovery if it rained in the next few days.
  • Peanuts: Most of the peanut crop is blooming and land plaster is being spread. The crop is holding on very well concerning the dry conditions. I still see some new growth coming and most of the peanuts have a good color.
  • Soybeans: Planting has stopped with about 30% of double crop acreage left to be planted. Approximately 35% of the crop is blooming. Soybeans are dying in the driest parts of fields with a few fields having lost 30% of the original stand. The crop would make a great recovery with rain soon.
  • Peaches: The two peach orchards in the region have started harvesting. The peaches have been a little slower to size up due to the dry conditions, but yields have been good.
  • Pastures and Hay: First cuttings have been completed but rain is needed to make a second cutting. Pasture conditions have diminished significantly this month resulting in some producers having to supplement with hay.

From Bright Ofori, Ph.D., Region 2 — Beaufort, Dare, Halifax, Hyde, Martin, Pamlico, Tyrell, Washington

  • Halifax County: There has been more than 25 days without rain in most towns, and corn is having a very hard time. However, in this county, cotton is the biggest crop by acreage. Cotton is not looking as bad as corn and has a good chance of recovery if rains occur. There is a 40% chance of rain in the forecast for Thursday, 6/27 and Saturday, 6/29. One farmer I spoke with mentioned in this county said, “I do not remember ever seeing it this dry.”
  • Martin County: Also in this region, it has remained dry over the last 4 weeks or so. There were spotty showers across the county three days ago, and that helped some fields. Nonetheless, corn is not looking good, and some farmers are considering moving corn down. Soybean, tobacco, and cotton are also being impacted by the dry spell, but do not look as bad as corn. These crops have a good chance of recovery when rains occur. Mowing considerations big for farmers.
  • Washington County: Also in this county, the dry spell has been bad on corn. Corn leaves as of today, 6/25 looked like pineapples and some farmers have made the decision to mow. Corn is moving from tasseling to silking and the dry spell has really affected this biophysiological transition. Soybean is at about V8-V9 and has a good chance of recovery with the occurrence of rain.
  • Hyde, Beaufort, Pamlico, Dare and Tyrrell: These counties have stayed generally dry, but have some spotty showers. In Scranton, NC (Hyde County), a farmer mentioned to me that there was a 2/10th of an inch last week and that helped corn a little. I dug up to 6 inches in a field in Scranton and there was some moisture in there. Corn in these regions look like the attached photo (stressed but not as bad as other areas). Of all the corn in region 2, the ones in this region have the best chance of recovery if rains come.

From Jeb Smith, Region 3 — Carteret, Craven, Edgecombe, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Pitt, Wilson

  • Region three has experienced less than one inch of rain during the entire month of June with the last rainfall event occurring on June 7th. Along with the minimal precipitation the temperatures and the humidity have been consistent in the mid-90s without any breaks in the heat waves.
  • Corn: the corn in the sandy lands of Region Three was off to an awesome start at the beginning of the month and had farmers excited for a promising harvest. After 3 weeks without rain, the farmers are now disheartened by the crop’s performance. Most of the corn crop is in the late vegetative to tasseling stage of production and is in desperate need of rain. Most of the corn looks stunned, twisted, and brown. The main concern most farmers have with the lack of moisture is the effect it is having on the corn’s pollination.
  • Cotton: the cotton in the region is holding on strong with some signs of wilting and stunted growth in very sandy soils. It is coming into the reproductive stage with some fields blossoming.
  • Tobacco: tobacco isn’t filling out like it should be this time of year with the bottom leaves turning yellow or as an old timer told me “firing up”. Most of the tobacco fields look like they have slowed down growing and are either still in the vegetative stage or anywhere from button to full-flowered tops. I have seen a few farms pulling lugs and also a few harvesting and curing already. The crops in the region could most definitely use some rain.
  • Peanuts: the peanuts in the region look to be holding strong for the most part but could use some rain to help with yellowing and pod formation.
  • Soybeans: from what I’ve seen in the past week soybean planting has stopped until we have some more ground moisture. Most soybeans look stunted and leaves seem to be wilted. Most of the stands I have seen are not uniform and lack growth.
  • Produce: most produce is grown under plastic and is being irrigated and managed more efficiently, but I have seen in a couple of instances where farmers irrigation during the heat of the day which can cause leaf scald or southern blight. The growth rate has slowed down with a lot of the leaves rolling inward or wilting.
  • Sweetpotatoes: sweetpotatoes transplanting or planting has stopped for the time being and the growth rate seems to be slowing down.
  • In summary, I would say section 3 has taken a hard hit this past month of June due the absence of rainfall events. I would guess that only 10% of the farms are irrigating.

From Willie Howell, Region 4 – Southeastern NC — Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Sampson:

  • Region 4 has experienced 3-4 weeks of low to no rainfall with rainfall totals less than an inch for the month of June (most in small showers in the first few days of June). The last 2-3 weeks have been very dry, hot, low humidity, and light winds. These conditions have caused crop conditions to deteriorate rapidly over the past two weeks. The US Drought Monitor does not reflect what is going on in the field. The drought monitor is about 2 weeks behind in indicating the severity of the soil moisture situation in eastern North Carolina.
  • The corn crop after one of the best starts in years is absolutely horrible. Most dryland fields with coarse textured soils have dried down while heavier soils have struggled with twisting and heat stress. The majority of the corn has entered reproductive stages in these dry hot conditions. Yield losses will be severe. I have heard of instances in southeastern Duplin County of growers destroying corn after insurance adjuster visits with hopes of planting soybeans. Irrigated corn is surviving, but the heat is stressing the crop. With the winds and low humidity, irrigation cannot keep up with water demands of the crop for maximum yields. Pollination could be an issue with the dry conditions creating physiological timing issues of tasseling and silking along with desiccation of the silks prior to full pollination.
  • The tobacco crop is also taking it on the chin as well. The majority of the crop is buttoning or in full flower. The plants are short in stature with firing up of lower leaves. Rain can salvage the tobacco crop, but the lower stalk leaf quality is deteriorating rapidly. Harvest will be delayed when rains arrive and the crop utilizes the available nutrients to finish filling out the crop. If dry, sunny conditions continue sunbaked cured leaf will be an issue for marketing the crop. Blackshank is manifesting in locations with disease history due to the dry conditions.
  • Soybean planting has halted until soil moisture improves. Many double-crop soybeans have not been planted, and what has been planted in the last week may emerge spotty if at all. Soybeans on sandier soils are struggling with water demands. The very sandiest of soils have soybeans dying while most soybeans have leaves flipped during the heat of the day to conserve moisture.
  • Cotton is squaring heavily on 12-18 inch plants with some blooms present. Cotton is wilting during the heat of the day.
    Peanuts look like they are taking the dry conditions better than most crops. With the dry soil conditions, pegging into to hard dry soil could become an issue.
  • Sweetpotatoes are looking pretty good but they still need rain as well. Some growers are continuing to transplant while others are waiting for moisture.
  • Sesame that was planted before soil moisture disappeared at the 1-inch depth in soil is thriving. Sesame planting is on hold until significant improvements in soil moisture happen. Sesame planting can continue until July 10-15.
  • Hay fields and pastures are in fair to poor condition unless irrigated. The first hay cutting was a very good yield for first cutting, but the lack of moisture and hot conditions since have not produced or is not producing a very good second cutting. Some cattle producers are feeding hay now due to the lack of forage production on pastures.
    Vegetable and watermelon production yields are lower due to the dry conditions and poor pollination conditions. Irrigation is not fully supplying the moisture needs with high transpiration rates with low humidity and windy conditions.
  • Some rains fell in isolated portions of the region which gave a reprieve for a small percentage of growers. Isolated pockets, less than 1% of the region, had thunderstorm cells which dropped 1-3 inches. These areas were mostly in far northeastern Duplin County and central Onslow County. 99% of the region received less than 0.1 inch of rain with many receiving none. The conditions have not improved as a general rule. More hot, dry conditions are forecast until the next chance of rain on Thursday and Friday with less than 50% chances of rain. Growers with irrigation capacity which is a small percentage are watering constantly. Rivers, streams, and ponds are very low and those sources of water are depleting rapidly. Well capacity should be good.
  • For growers, profit margins were very tight with lower commodity prices heading into the growing season. Now with deteriorated crops and not so good forecast, profit prospects are dim. Growers are feeling the pressure.

From Georgia Love, agronomist in Region 5 – Southeastern NC — Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson, Scotland:

  • The most stressed crops right now are produce and corn. Cotton and tobacco seem to handle heat and drought stress better than some other crops, but the intense drought is causing issues in those crops as well.
  •  At this point, pretty much all crops and all counties are being impacted by the drought and heat in my region. The weather report says we are in the stage “abnormally dry,” however it seems a lot more severe than that. I think we have to take into account the heat and its impact on crops as well as the amount of rain we have received. Impacted the most are corn and produce crops. Some fields of corn will be a complete loss.
  • Tassels have begun to emerge, and pollen is being produced without an ear on the stalk. Some soybeans and peanuts are starting to die in light areas of fields. Soybean stands are spotty where planted later behind wheat.
  • Diseases that normally show up in July are beginning to show up in produce crops like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, etc.
  • Crops like cotton and tobacco appear to be handling the dry weather better than others. However, where the drought is severe, tobacco has already lost 2 to 3 leaves and cotton is beginning to shed leaves and show signs of stress. There are a few spots that have received rainfall, but not many and it just occurred over the last few days.
  • Hay/pastures have pretty much stopped growing and more hay reserves are being fed. Less than 12 percent of farmers in our area have irrigation. I talked to one grower in Cumberland last week who irrigates with pond water and the pond is dry.

From Spencer Thomas, Region 6- Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Wake, Wayne

  • Most of the region is experiencing a severe drought. Crops are experiencing high levels of heat stress and in dire need of rain. If we do not get an adequate rain event soon the majority of crops will suffer except for a small percentage that has access to pumping water the majority do not.
  • Corn: Majority of field corn is in the V13 to V15 range, some of the filed corn is at VT. Sweet Corn for many growers we are looking at VT to R1-R3 depending on planting time. Without rain at this stage, we will be lucky to see 20 bushels an acre if there is any production at all. A few fields most likely will be tilled in.
  • Cotton: Majority of cotton has been planted and actively growing, some fields within the next 8-10 days will start flowering due to squares already being set. We will need rain from flowering stage forward or the crop is going to suffer. Some growers had a later start due to rain impacts at planting, now we need the rain for the plants to come out of the stunted growth stage they are in.
  • Soybeans: Majority of the beans have been planted except a very small percentage that just stopped planting due to lack of moisture. Scattered areas have beans already trying to flower. Rain would be beneficial at this stage. Most fields are yellow, tips are browning due to the heat and lack of moisture.
  • Peanut: Majority of the peanuts appear to be hanging on, not showing a lot of discoloration at this point due to lack of moisture and heat stress in earlier planted fields. Some scattered sandier soils of course are showing more signs of heat/ lack of moisture than heavier soils, along with later planted fields.
  • Tobacco: Fields are showing signs of heat stress and have slowed down/halted growth. These fields are all starting to flower and produce suckers. Some growers have sprayed with growth regulator to try and halt the flowering stage, to no avail due to the lack of moisture in the soil. Plants are losing bottom leaves and are starting to burn on the ages in some areas. Yields will be reduced now. With lower humidity and moisture levels, the presence of diseases has tapered off. Thrips have been problematic due to the heat.
  • Sweetpotato: Sweetpotato is growing slowly in a lot of areas due to the lack of moisture, some areas were late on planting and those may not survive. If we get a good rain event, they do have a chance to recover but this drought will affect yields in the fall come harvest.
  • Watermelon: Quite a few growers should be starting to harvest in the next week especially the individuals who have drip irrigation with an adequate water supply. Some growers were late plant and are starting to flower now. Overall, most of the watermelons will be fine, a few cases early on of gummy stem were corrected, and plants are recovering well.
  • Vegetables: Not a lot of issues with disease due to the heat and drought. Have lower humidity which helps mitigate disease and fungal growth. Once we get a good rain event we will need to be on the lookout for an increase in diseases and fungal growth.
  • Pasture/Hay Production: Most of the fields that I have seen have just been cut and baled for the second or third time this growing season. Now we are in a slow growth stage due to the heat and drought stress. Once we get a good rainfall event the grass will soak up everything it can and continue to grow. We will most likely see a small reduction in hay yield throughout the region.

From Anna-Beth Williams, Region 7 – Piedmont/Central NC — Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Granville, Guilford, Person, Rockingham, Stokes, Vance, and Warren:

  • Overall, there has been no significant rainfall since May 18 in Region 7. Upper Piedmont Research Station has accounted for 1 total inch of rain during the month of June. Growers are irrigating all crops that can be irrigated, in hopes of pushing through till the next rain. Corn, soybeans, forages, and hay are at risk of being a total loss. Dryland tobacco is also suffering but in general is a more resilient crop and growers have hope that it will push through.
  • About 40% of the region’s corn crop is at tassel and the other 60% is between V4 and V7. The V4 corn seems to be burning up in the field and will likely be dead if no rain falls within two weeks. All of the corn is twisted and in desperate need of water. Roughly 10 % of corn in the region is currently being irrigated, most of this is just before tassel.
  • Full season soybeans are around V3 to V6 in the Western part of the region and closer to flowering in the Eastern part of the region. The V3 soybeans are cupped, twisted and hurting worse than any other growth stage, currently. The V6 soybeans are stressed and attempting to flower, limiting height and yield potential. About 5% of the soybeans are being irrigated, they do not require as much water as corn, but growers are trying to reduce stress in as many ways as possible. About 50% of the intended double crop soybean acreage has been planted, the rest is still in the seed bag. Growers are unable to plant into the hard ground and unwilling to waste resources with little to no chance of rain in the forecast. Double crop soybeans that have been planted are also between V3 and V6 growth stage.
  • This is the most variable tobacco crop I remember seeing. A single grower has tobacco that is laid-by all the way down to tobacco that was planted June 5 but looks like you just put it in the ground a week ago. Roughly 50% of the growers have access to irrigation equipment and water. However, they may only have enough resources to irrigate one farm at a time, so the rotations have started to try and keep the tobacco growing. Much of it was attempting to bud out so the focus is on keeping it growing vegetatively, at least for a few more weeks. Granular fertilizer, from the beginning of the season, can still be seen on top of the ground due to lack of rain to melt and activate it.
  • Fruit and vegetable crops are stressed but about 90% have access to and the ability to irrigate via drip irrigation. Some growers lost late May planted green beans, field peas, and sweet corn crops that typically wouldn’t be irrigated due to the dry weather. Others have not had issues.
  • The good thing about the lack of rain has been great hay weather. The bad side is, the first cuttings should have been completed in early June, not the last week of June. The showers in May delayed first cuttings, pushed seed formation and decreased quality. Forage fields are starting to turn brown, and growers are rotating cattle, where possible, to limit stress on a certain pasture.
  • Even though conditions are rough, the farmer mentality is built on faith and hope. More than one grower has said this week there is always rain on July 4 so I’m waiting until July 4th and if we don’t have rain, I’ll irrigate. However, with temperatures in the upper 90s the past several days and another week of them in the forecast, we’re definitely in a stressful situation. Even with irrigation capability, it’s not as effective as an actual rain shower. 50-60% of the corn and tobacco across the region will be dead or past revival if we get now rain in the next two weeks. Growers who are irrigating are doing it earlier than normal and fear running out of water resources (pond water) if the dry weather continues. Even so, they remain hopeful that things will turn around and they’ll make a decent crop.

From Brad Thompson, Region 8 — Anson, Chatham, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond and Stanley

  • Tobacco – The tobacco crop in the region is in fair shape for the time being. Growers that are able, are irrigating their tobacco during the hot and dry conditions that we are facing at the time. Prior to above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation, the tobacco crop was in very good shape. Planting conditions allowed the tobacco crop to produce deep roots which is beneficial now as the plants endure the prolonged hot and dry weather conditions. Tobacco plants have begun to show stress such as yellowing of lower leaves and cupped/upward pointed leaves. These symptoms are shown when tobacco plants are lacking water and the plants are trying to conserve and hold on to as much water as possible. As mentioned previously, growers are irrigating where they can and this is helping plants withstand the stress they are under at the moment. If rainfall occurs within the next several days, the tobacco crop still has a chance to recover and could potentially be a good overall crop for this year.
  • Corn – Corn within the region is suffering. Two weeks ago, the corn crop in the region was looking to have the potential to have normal to above normal yields. That outlook is now downgraded to well below normal yields. Growers that had planted corn early in the season; i.e.: mid to late March; were rewarded with fields of corn that began tasseling and silking in early June. However, the rainfall stopped and the temperatures climbed which has now resulted in fields of corn that have severe pollination issues. Other growers that planted later and usually during the more normal timeframe for corn production within the region, are watching their crops twist and dry up. Growers that have been able to irrigate their fields still have the potential to make a fair crop, but pollination may be interrupted due to the high temperatures that we are experiencing which will result in below normal yields and above normal input costs for the growers. I have driven past several fields within the past week that are so severely impacted that no amount of rainfall at this point will save the crop. Plants in those fields were already turning brown and very little green was seen except for plants in the center of the field. The plants at the edges of the fields were dead. The only bright spot within the region is in the south-southwestern part of Stanly county and into the northern parts of Anson county. The corn crop in those locations do not seem to be as stressed as they are in other areas of the region. However, it is getting drier by the day and the corn is beginning to twist tighter, even in the areas that are not as bad.
  • Peaches – The peach crop within the region is outstanding. The heat is allowing varieties to ripen up slightly earlier than normal, but the fruit quality is exceptional. The growers in the region that have irrigation are irrigating their trees, but the growers who are not irrigating are not seeing any negative impacts from the dry conditions at this point. The only downside may be slightly smaller fruit as the season progresses, but as of right now the peach crop is doing well.
  • Soybeans – Soybeans within the region are similar to corn; suffering. Plants in most fields are drought stressed and flagging severely during the hottest parts of the day. Soybeans that have just emerged are doing fine as they were planted behind wheat and there is still some moisture available to those seedlings for now. Growers are continuing to plant even in dry conditions hoping that some rain will arrive in the region soon. As of right now it is too early to determine if the crop will be impacted by this duration of hot and dry conditions.
  • Cotton – Similar to soybeans, the cotton crop is handling the dry and heat fairly well right now. The plants are flagging during the hottest part of the day, but recover in the mornings. A rainfall event would help plants begin to grow again, but until then, the crop seems to be waiting for some rain with very little impact on production.
  • Sesame – Sesame within the region looks very good considering the growing conditions. Growers that planted in late May have fields with plants that are almost ankle high and growers that planted in June have seedlings that have just emerged and have 2-3 true leaves. Unlike cotton and soybeans within the region, this crop does not seem to flag or show any stress during the hottest parts of the day. The sesame crop is the only crop that seems to thrive in these hot and dry conditions we’re experiencing right now.
  • Vegetables – Most growers within the region who grow vegetables have their crops on plasticulture systems. However, everyone is running irrigation almost non-stop to keep their vegetables growing right now. Several growers are harvesting watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, cucumbers, beans, peppers, and tomatoes. All of these crops are needing continuous water right now and if growers cannot keep up with the water needs of these crops, there will be significant fruit quality issues in the near future. The main issue will be cracking and blossom end rot on tomato, pepper, and melons. Growers are also beginning to plant pumpkins within the region and are concerned that the lack of rainfall is going to impact plant grow off and establishment. Some growers who have been irrigating continuously for the past 5 weeks are beginning to worry that they will run out of water as their ponds continue to dwindle. Rainfall within the next several days will help growers that are not using plasticulture, but the growers that are using plasticulture will continue to irrigate using drip irrigation through the duration of the season. However, if temperatures would go back towards normal, this would allow growers to back off the amount of water they are having to use to irrigate their crops during this duration of dry and hot weather.

From Daniel Overcash, agronomist Region 9 — Piedmont/Central NC — Cabarrus, Davidson, Forsyth, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Surry, Union, Yadkin:

  • Tobacco that can be irrigated – its ongoing. Concerns with it moving to layby and there will be concerns with sucker control at some point. Tobacco based on my experience is pretty resilient.
  • The majority of the corn is silking and tasseling in the piedmont. The high temps have already probably prevented pollination. I think if it rained today we could salvage a poor corn, but with the forecast of no rain and 90 degree temps, I think by next week it will be a confirmed failure. There is some corn that got planted late, around May 1st, it is suffering but could come back if we get some rain next week.
  • Full season soybeans are holding their own but will start to go down next week. The double crop beans planted after wheat were planted but they have not emerged. Over 50% of the beans in my area are double crops. If they don’t come up, I doubt we will have time to replant. Usually, most growers have July 1st as their deadline to plant any beans.
  • Produce growers seem to be ok. They have irrigation water, but watermelons and tomatoes are getting burnt by the high temperatures.
  • Fescue pastures are ok now, but that will not be the story 2 weeks from now. This has me concerned. If we start feeding hay now, the stockpiles for winter will be depleted.

Region 10 – Vacant

From Steve Dillon, Region 11 – Mountains — Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Henderson, Lincoln, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania:

  • Gaston and Southern Cleveland Counties are very dry at this point. Crops in Lincoln, Polk and Rutherford are faring better than crops in Gaston and Southern Cleveland Counties
  • Small Grains: Wheat harvest is winding up for most growers.
  • Corn: Early planted Piedmont corn is suffering from dry, hot conditions as tasseling and silking are occurring at this time. Upland corn is faring the worst. If weather conditions don’t improve by the middle of next week, corn ear fill will be adversely affected.
    Later planted corn is suffering through the hot dry conditions as well. Yields of later planted corn will be dependent on the return of adequate moisture for crop growth. Piedmont growers typically plant corn as late as the first week of July.
  • Soybeans: Full season soybeans are off to a good start. Some double crop soybeans have been planted. Growers are waiting for rain to plant the majority of double crop soybeans.
  • Small Fruits: Strawberry harvest continues for some growers. Blueberry harvesting continues as well. Early Blackberry harvesting has just started. All of these crops are irrigated.
  • Apples and Peaches: The apple crop generally looks good though some areas have been hail damaged. As a whole, the peach crop looks good. Some cultivars have set little fruit, but others are producing normally. Some peaches have been hail damaged as well.
  • Vegetables: Growers are transplanting, pruning and stringing tomatoes. Early planted cucurbits and snapbean are being harvested. Except for squash and sweet corn, the majority of vegetable acreage is irrigated.
  •  Pasture and Hay: Most growers have just finished up their first cutting of grass hay. Currently hay is available. Closely grazed pastures and hayfields are suffering from the lack of water and growth. Pasture looks decent where growers are able to rotate to fresh pastures or have low sticking rates. Pastures may soon decline in Gaston and southern Cleveland Counties.
  • Grower Concerns: – Hot conditions limit the amount of time berries can be harvested and field heat removed. Peach growers are concerned that the crop may not size up well and may ripen early. Early ripening may flood markets and decrease demand.

Chris Leek Regional Agronomist Region 12 – Mountains — Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain, Yancey:

  • Corn: Grain and silage corn is anywhere from V2 to VT in Region 12. Grain corn in the far western counties (Cherokee, Clay and Macon) is off to a decent start despite heavy rain events in May and hot, dry conditions in June. Some wetter areas of fields had to be replanted. Field conditions in June have been hot and dry, but the crop has had enough rain to not impact yields. Dryer areas of fields are starting to show stress, but I do not think it will be an issue if it rains soon.
  • Silage corn planted in late May and early June is struggling in current conditions.
  • Soybean: Full season beans are off to a good start in the region and look the best they have in recent years.
  • Burley tobacco: Tobacco acreage continues to decline with only a few growers left in the region. Dry conditions have hampered the crop.
  • Strawberry: The strawberry crop started earlier than usual for farms that were able to provide frost protection. Yields have been good, and a few farms are still harvesting.
  • Vegetables: Vegetable crops are off to a good start. Farmers were able to lay plastic in a timely manner. Disease pressure has been higher than usual due to excessive rain in May.
  • Hot and dry weather in June has helped alleviate disease issues seen early in the region. Multiple farms in the region had hailstorms early in the season that caused major damage.
  • Christmas Trees: Christmas tree farms could have issues with newly planted trees if it stays dry.
  • Small Fruit: Small fruit looks good in the region.
  • Forages: Pasture is declining throughout the region due to hot and dry conditions. Hay yields were higher than average. First cutting is just now being finished in the region. As of now, there is plenty of extra hay in the region for sale.
  • If the forecast is correct and the region receives rain in the next week, I do not suspect any major issues.

Bullet points from the N.C. Forest Service on the dry conditions:

 With abnormally dry conditions across much of the state, outdoor burning and fireworks are discouraged until your area receives substantial wet, soaking rain.
 Fire danger is high. Fuels can ignite quickly, and unattended fires are likely to escape and spread rapidly.
 Careless outdoor burning is the leading cause of wildfires in this state. Being diligent and responsible with outdoor fire and fireworks is critical all the time, especially with persistent, dry conditions.
 If a wildfire is caused by your backyard fire or fireworks, you may be subject to p