Last weekend, Tropical Storm Alberto became the first named storm of the 2012 hurricane season. The official calendar-based hurricane season runs from June 1 through the end of November. But hurricanes do not read calendars.
We humans distract ourselves from reality by relying on our own artificial constructs like property lines, minutes of time and dates on calendars. Should anyone be surprised that the hurricane season started early? Well, don’t be surprised, because the hurricane season did not start early. It started right on time for the existing weather conditions. It is only early if we rely on our own artificial expectations based on conditions that no longer exist instead of on immediate reality.
Our warm winter led to soils warming up five weeks to a month earlier than usual. It takes more heat to warm up water than it does soil, so it makes sense to me that the conditions favorable for tropical storm formation are ahead of the normal calendar schedule but not as far ahead as land effects. The weather is warmer earlier this year, so everything with a heat component is adjusted accordingly.
I expect the agriculture, forestry and wildlife communities have mixed feelings about this storm. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is glad to see the rain we need so badly. This does not begin to end the drought we are under, but it will likely lead to many who are not in the agriculture and forestry communities to think everything is back to normal and that there is nothing to worry about.
We are far from achieving soil-water recharge on our fields, forests and pastures and have not begun to recharge the surficial aquifers on the barrier islands. No, it will take many weekly rainfalls such as this past weekend to get back to anything remotely resembling normal moisture.
Cattlemen and hay farmers have every reason to rejoice for the latest tropical storm. Row crop farmers, especially cotton farmers, are mixed on it. Last week, I saw cotton being dusted in across the eastern Georgia counties. If the rain bands dropped enough rain on their fields, these growers won the gamble of planting their cotton without adequate soil moisture. If not, they are still praying for more rain. Worse would be getting just an inch of rain — just enough to get the seed up but not enough to keep it alive.
Cotton farmers in Coastal Georgia counties who have not planted but have some rain now have the unenviable task of deciding whether to plant now or wait until next year. If they plant now, they have to select an early-maturing variety, hope late rains do not bring on boll rot and decide whether a plant growth regulator and a harvest aid will be worth the cost. Worst of all, dryland farmers have no control over the crop’s water supply. If they plant and the rains do not come, they have dug a financial hole for themselves. If they choose not to plant and the rains come, they miss out on making a decent return in one of the few years when prices have actually been good.
The one talent we seem to excel at is growing horns on a dilemma.
One thing we should all agree we would like to see this year is a lot of tropical storms making landfall here in the Southeast but not one hurricane. Alberto has gotten us off on the right foot.
A postscript: I got to observe farmers in their fields on my way to the 4-H State Shotgun Competition, where my son competed and shot his personal best — 24 out of 25 clays in modified trap. Three of the young men on the Bryan County 4-H Shotgun team shot perfect scores and went on to compete in the doubles shoot-off to determine the state champion.
More than 960 young people from 64 counties competed at Rock Eagle. All who shot perfect scores competed in the doubles shoot-off. Richmond Hill’s Josh Range, son of Peter Range, shot the best for Bryan County that day, ranking 11th in the state. Congratulations Josh!
It is quite something to see how much these young people have improved in their shooting, but even better to see them develop their confidence, maturity and sportsmanship. We are blessed with excellent and committed coaches who help mold the character of our sons and daughters. The real work of the 4-H SAFE Program doesn’t happen at competitions, it happens right here at home during the practice sessions.
Thanks for another great year!
Gardner is the UGA agriculture extension agent for Glynn County and South Bryan County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.