Low yields follow hot, dry season

A few scattered showers during the latter part of the growing season coupled with good harvesting conditions slightly boosted crop yields in some parts of the lower Southeast.

Most growers, however, are still disappointed in average yields that are far below those of a year ago, primarily due to drought conditions during the spring and summer months.

In Georgia, rainfall during October was below normal until the end of the month when rains from a cold front brought the month's total up to normal, according to the state's agricultural statistics service. Temperatures during the first half of October were above normal, while temperatures were more near normal during the last part of the month.

Weather conditions generally have provided excellent harvesting conditions for fall-harvested crops in Georgia.

Georgia's cotton production for 2006 is expected to total 1.85 million bales. This is 150,000 bales above the October forecast but 290,000 bales below 2005 production.

Harvesting conditions were very good during October, except towards the end of the month when rains delayed picking. Acreage for harvest, at 1,330,000 acres, remains unchanged from earlier estimates.

The yield calculates to 668 pounds per harvested acre. By the end of the first week of November, about 69 percent of the crop had been harvested.

Peanut production for Georgia is forecast at 1.52 billion pounds, 6 percent more than the October forecast but 28 percent less than in 2005. Yield per harvested acre is forecast at 2,650 pounds, up 150 pounds per acre from earlier estimates but down 190 pounds from a year ago.

The low yield is a reflection of dry, hot weather conditions during the summer and early fall. By the end of October, harvesting progress was about a week behind normal.

Georgia's corn yield for 2006 is expected to average 114 bushels per harvested acre, five bushels more than the October estimate but 15 bushels per acre less than in 2005. If this yield is realized, it will be the lowest since 2002.

Timely rains and irrigation, however, have provided growers with a better than expected crop. Total corn production is expected to total 26.2 million bushels from 230,000 acres harvested for grain. Production of this size would be 12 percent less than last year. Harvest was virtually complete by the middle of October.

Soybean production in the state is expected to total 3.60 million bushels, the same as the October estimate but 21 percent less than in 2005. Acreage expected for harvest is at 150,000 acres or 25,000 acres less than in 2005. Yields are expected to average 24 bushels per acre, the same as earlier estimates but two bushels per acre less than last year.

By the end of the first week of November, about 39 percent of the crop had been harvested.

In Alabama, the final two weeks of October brought cool, wet weather that slowed fieldwork and kept most farmers out of their fields. The first of November brought clearer weather, with farmers hurriedly trying to complete harvest. Cotton and soybean harvest was progressing ahead of last year and the five-year average, while peanut harvest was lagging well behind normal.

Soil moisture levels in the state have improved, with 65 percent of the land experiencing either adequate or surplus conditions.

The majority of Alabama producers have finished harvesting their 2006 corn crop, with corn harvested for grain yields estimated at 60 bushels per acre. This is about 59 bushels below last year. Production is estimated at 11,400,000 bushels from 190,000 harvested acres.

More than 75 percent of Alabama's cotton crop has been harvested as of the first part of November. Estimated cotton yields have shown continual improvement over the summer, as drought conditions improved. But the current estimate, at 538 pounds of lint per acre, is still 209 pounds below last year.

Growers are expected to produce 600,000 bales of cotton from 535,000 harvested acres. This level of production is a 248,000-bale decrease from last year.

Eighty percent of all soybean fields in Alabama had been harvested by Nov. 1. Yield is estimated at 17 bushels per acre, down 16 bushels per acre from last year. Production is expected to total 2,550,000 bushels from 150,000 harvested acres.

Nearly 75 percent of the state's peanut crop had been dug by Nov. 1, with 63 percent combined. Yield is estimated at 2,100 pounds per acre, down 650 pounds from 2005. Production is expected to total 331,800,000 pounds of peanuts from 158,000 harvested acres, down 46 percent from last year.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the latest estimates set that state's cotton yield at 577 pounds per acre. This is down by about 185 pounds from last year. Production was expected to total 125,000 480-pound bales, up 25,000 bales from earlier estimates but down 10,000 bales from last year's production. Producers are expected to pick 104,000 acres, up 19,000 from last year.

The Panhandle's peanut yield was expected to average 2,500 pounds per acre. Growers expected production to total 300 million pounds, down 27 percent from last year's 410.4 million pounds produced. Growers planned to dig 120,000 acres, down 32,000 acres from last year.

Florida's tobacco acreage harvested totaled 1,100 acres, down 1,400 acres or 56 percent from the 2,500 acres cut last year. Yield per acre averaged 2,400 pounds per acre, up 200 pounds from a year ago. Production totaled 2,640,000 pounds, down 2,860,000 pounds or 52 percent from last year.

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