Georgia crop yields decline after hurricanes

Georgia farmers weren't able to escape the wrath of three consecutive hurricanes, as evidenced by the most recent yield estimates from the state's agricultural statistics service.

Most of September was characterized by near-normal temperatures in Georgia, but rainfall was a different story. Georgia experienced the remnants of Hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, all coming in the month of September.

Many areas of the state received between 10 to 15 inches of rain from these storms. A few places received 15 to 20 inches. Based on a survey of growers contacted in October, crop yields for corn and soybeans remained the same as the September survey. Hay and tobacco yields showed an increase, while cotton and peanut yields showed a decrease. No unusual insect damage was reported, and weather conditions during September made harvest difficult.

Georgia corn yields for 2004 are expected to average 130 bushels per harvested acre, the same as earlier estimates and 1 bushel per acre more than in 2003. If this yield is realized it will be the second highest on record, behind the 134 bushels per acre set in 2001.

June rains and irrigation provided most growers with an excellent crop. Total corn production is expected to total 36.4 million bushels from 280,000 acres harvested for grain. Production of this size would be 1 percent less than last year. By the end of September, harvest of corn grain was 92 percent complete compared with the five-year average of 95 percent.

Georgia's 2004 cotton crop is forecast to average 667 pounds of lint per harvested acre or 95 pounds less than earlier estimates and 118 pounds per acre less than in 2003. Cotton yields have suffered due to the storms of September.

By the end of September, most of the cotton crop was rated in fair condition. Acreage expected to be harvested this fall is estimated at 1,260,000 acres, down 30,000 acres from last year. Production is estimated at 1,750,000 bales, 17 percent below last year's 2,110,000 bales.

Peanut production in Georgia is forecast at 1.83 billion pounds, compared with last year's 1.86 billion pounds. Harvested acres are expected to be 610,000 compared with 540,000 in 2003.

Yields across the Georgia peanut belt are expected to average 3,000 pounds per acre, down 300 pounds per acre from last month and 450 pounds per acre less than last year. The crop also suffered from the excessive rainfall during September. By the end of September, most of the crop was rated in fair to good condition.

Soybean yields in Georgia are forecast at 30 bushels per harvested acre, the same as earlier estimates but 3 bushels per acre less than in 2003. If this forecast is realized, it will be the third highest yield on record.

Planted soybean acres are set at 270,000 acres or 20,000 acres more than earlier estimates. Harvested acres are estimated to be 260,000 acres or 20,000 acres more than the September estimate. Harvesting was just getting under way at the end of September.

Tobacco yields for 2004 are expected to average 1,950 pounds per acre or 50 pounds more than last month but still 250 pounds less than in 2003. Disease problems have been more serious this year compared to last year.

Tomato spotted wilt virus has been a major problem in Georgia's 2004 tobacco crop. Acreage harvested is expected to be 24,000 acres, the same as last month but 3,000 acres less than last year. This puts potential production at 46.8 million pounds for the year 2004 or 21 percent less than 2003.

Georgia's hay production is expected to total 1.74 million tons, up 15 percent from last month but about 3 percent less than in 2003. Yields are forecast at 3 tons per acre. This is 0.40 tons per acre more than last month but the same yield as in 2003. The mid-summer and late-summer rains delayed cuttings, causing an overly mature crop. Acreage cut for hay totals 580,000 acres, unchanged from last month but 20,000 acres less than in 2003.

Georgia's 2004 pecan production is forecast at 40 million pounds, down 47 percent from last year. Production of improved varieties is forecast at 35 million pounds. Native and seedling production is forecast at 5 million pounds. The three September hurricanes wreaked havoc on the state's pecan crop. The storms blew down trees, broke limbs and branches and blew immature nuts out of the trees.

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