Showers this week will bring some short-term relief, but most of Georgia is still in varying degrees of drought conditions.
Entire state dry
All of the state except the northwest corner is experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. The northwest corner has mild drought conditions.
As of now, the northeast, west central and southern third of the state have severe drought conditions, based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index. The remainder of the state has moderate drought conditions.
Outlook not promising
The weather outlook through May doesn't look promising. It has taken a year for the present conditions to develop. It's going to take several days of rain to make a significant dent in the drought.
The dry conditions started in May 1998 and first became critical last summer. Normally, soil moisture is recharged during the winter. But that didn't happen last winter.
In October through March, total precipitation was in the bottom 15th percentile for the northeast and southern two-thirds of the state. With soil moisture reserves extremely low, early crop and pasture growth is being hindered. Dry soils are inhibiting proper germination of cotton in some areas of the state.
Soil moisture and crop condition
County Extension Service agents rated 83 percent of the state's topsoil moisture as short or very short. That's up 16 points from last week, said Bob Bass, state statistician with the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service.
Crop conditions vary considerably. The wheat crop was rated at 30 percent poor to very poor, compared to 13 percent last week. But with 21 percent of the onion harvested, 87 percent of the crop rated fair, good or excellent, Bass said.
(David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)