2016 drought impacts Blount County agriculture

How dry is it? Well, it is so dry that last week I saw three trees chasing the same dog!

This is the driest I have ever seen for this time of year in my career in Extension. I do recall some talk about a drought in the mid-70s that affected our yields in Alabama, but this has to rank in the top two or three worst drought events to hit our area in the last 50 years or more. The 2007 drought was petty significant, but it occurred in the late spring and early summer, and most crops had time to recover. Ponds were full from winter rains, which meant water for irrigation and watering cattle was never at risk.

However, this drought is different due to the severity and timing. It has affected all of our row crops including soybeans, cotton, corn, and peanuts. How seriously remains to be seen as harvest is still underway, but some reports I have received are about 25 percent below what is normally expected. It has also caused a delay in planting annual hill strawberries and other late season vegetable crops. It has been difficult to get sweet potatoes dug, as well. Hay and cattle

Ranchers are now beginning to feed hay and may be actively searching for additional hay to get them through the winter. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries have a website to assist ranchers. You may go to agi.alabama.gov/s/haylistings or visit their webpage or Facebook page for additional information.

Cattlemen and cattlewomen are facing some tough decisions on their herds, which may include reducing the number of head being pastured. Animal health, age, and production are just some of the factors to consider when deciding which animals to take to market. Lack of rain continues to delay the planting of winter grains and over-seeding pastures, which compounds the situation. It’s a tough situation for all involved in agricultural production. Fire!

Please be careful with fire and remember that we are currently under a noburn order. The Alabama Forestry Commission reports that from Oct. 1, 2015 to Oct. 13, 2015, we had 22 fires in Alabama that burned a total of 108 acres. This year, during the same period, we have had 494 fires that have burned 6,048 acres. (Kathy, please take notice of this. Don’t burn the house down!) In Blount County this year from Oct. 1 to Oct. 13, we have had seven fires that burned 57 acres. Go to the Alabama Forestry Commission website for additional information.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some colder, wetter weather.