Drought continues in area

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coping with high temperatures is harder without benefit of cloudy days that bring rain and cooler air. Although the current weather conditions are uncomfortable for humans, it is wreaking havoc on gardens and farms across the region.

Ken Kelly, agronomist with the Brewton office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, said crops are suffering from the lack of rain over the past several weeks.

“The dryness has had different effects on different crops, but corn has really been hit hard,” Kelly said. “Just when the corn crop needed rain the most, it didn’t get it, and most of the corn crop has been badly effected.”

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Although there are rumblings that give the hope that rain may be coming, rain so desperately needed seldom comes. Kelly said the small amount of rain hasn’t helped crops very much, but there is a chance for some varieties to recover.

“I think most everything else will have a chance to recover if we have a turn around in the weather,” Kelly said. “Hopefully we are going to see some rain later this week and it could help a lot.”

Throughout the region, areas are suffering from near-drought conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor information posted last week, Escambia County is nestled in an area considered to be in a severe to extreme drought situation.

David Gibbs with A1 Specialists landscapers in Atmore said the lack of rain is causing problems for farmers and is hurting the lawns of area residents as well.

“The grass cutters are having a hard time right now,” Gibbs said. “There isn’t much grass to cut. Some plants in people’s yards are doing OK, but there are some that just aren’t making it.”

Gibbs said the hope of rainfall later this week may be the thing that saves what’s left of lawns and gardens in the county.

“We do have a chance of getting some rain later this week,” Gibbs said. “If we get a decent rain, I think we’ll be OK for a while. If we could just get a good, drenching most of what appears to be dying would be able to make it.”

Kelly echoed Gibbs’ comments about the potential for saving crops and lawns with a good amount of rain.

“The dryness has set us behind but if we get some moisture, things can catch up,” Kelly said. “Most farmers diversify with their crops and don’t base everything on one crop. Hay and forage is not looking good, but most everything else can recover with some rain. Hopefully we can cycle out of these hot temperatures and that will help a lot. There’s nothing we can do about the weather, but hope it is changing. We don’t have any farmers that irrigate in this part of the state, and they depend on the rain for the crops.”

Brewton Farmer Roy Burnham said his crops were hit pretty hard from the lack of rain. Just last week, as a result of crop losses, the farmer even held a drought sale on his corn crop.

“The rest of what we had planted was eaten by the deer,” Burnham’s wife said. “I guess they were having trouble finding food too. About the only thing we have left are okra and some squash. Deer don’t like the okra. Roy said next year he will just plant enough for us to have to eat.”

The National Weather Service has predicted a 40 percent chance of rain today with a 60 percent chance of rain on Thursday. In the forecast for the coming days, the rain chance has been set for 40 percent Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the rain chance increasing to 60 percent through mid-week next week.