By Clint Thompson
Excessive rainfall this winter could delay plantings for growers across the Southeast, according to Pam Knox, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agricultural Climatologist.
Two days of steady rain on March 4 and 5 inundated much of Georgia with parts of Georgia receiving between 4 and 5 inches. The two-day deluge of moisture only highlighted a wet 2020 so far, especially in February in parts of North Alabama and North Georgia.
“A lot of places have gotten double their usual amount of February rain. A few places have probably set records. I think a lot of places are in their top five of wettest February,” Knox said. “The winter, as a whole, has been very warm and wet as well. I’ve heard some problems of people not being able to get into their fields because they’re worried about rutting the soil. That’s delayed field work and it may cause some delays in spring planting.”
Knox added that when soil is as wet as it is, it takes some time to warm up. If farmers start to put seeds in the ground when the soil is really cold, the seeds are not going to germinate as fast, and potential yield could be lost.
One benefit from the wet winter is that most of the region is not considered to be in a drought anymore.
“In the last week, the Drought Monitor has removed all the drought from Georgia,” Knox said. “In Florida, the abnormally dry conditions actually expanded this past week. The southern part of the state, towards Gainesville and so on, really got missed by a lot of this rain. It’s all parked over north Georgia. They’re actually getting fairly dry in the central part of Florida.”
Knox emphasized that droughts aren’t as noticeable in the winter because there’s not crops or plants that are growing. But that’ll change in a few weeks as farmers begin planting vegetables and then row crops in April and May.
“As we go into the spring, once you hit mid-March and early April, then the water balance changes so that whatever water you get from rain or irrigation, it pretty much is used up by the plants,” Knox said. “If the soil is dry, the plants are not able withstand dry spells very well. For areas that have had a lot of rain, the plants will do fine if they’re not drowned out by too much water.”