Published on 06/19/01

Rains Benefit Georgia Row Crops

Threatened by another year of continued drought, farmers are relishing the timely relief that recent rains provided most of Georgia's major row crops. Overall, experts say this is the best crops have looked in three years.

Weed and disease control are the main issues facing peanut farmers right now. But that's not necessarily bad, said John Beasley, an Extension Service agronomist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"Anytime those two situations occur early on in the season, it's indicative of good growing conditions (for the crop)," Beasley said.

Disease, Weeds Sign of Rain

Disease pressure early in the season means the crop is getting wet with rain, something farmers haven't had in great supply over the past few years, he said.

"The past week to 10 days, we've gotten a lot of rain," Beasley said. "That has certainly helped growing conditions considerably."

According to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service, 96 percent of the peanut crop is in good to excellent condition.

Not every acre has had above-normal rainfall. But a good portion of the peanut belt has gotten adequate to above-adequate rain. The eastern part of the state hasn't had as much as the middle and southwestern parts.

Most of the peanut crop was planted in mid-May. But early-season dry weather forced some farmers to plant their crop later than normal. Most of the crop, though, is growing at a good pace, he said.

"Right now, we're in better shape than we were at this time last year," he said.

The rain has helped the crop recover from the earlier dry conditions. But in a few weeks, most of the peanut crop will have reached a stage of growth that requires the highest amount of water. Then, fields will need about 2 inches of water each week.

Good for Corn, Bad for Wheat

Overall, the corn crop is the best farmers have seen in the past three years, particularly for dryland farmers, said Dewey Lee, a UGA Extension Service grains scientist.

Georgia's corn crop was planted late because of heavy rainfall in March. Despite the setback, the crop has grown at a steady pace, Lee said.

The dryland crop was hurt by dry weather April and May, but irrigated corn is in good shape, he said. About 94 percent of the corn crop is in good to excellent condition.

Because corn was planted late, the recent rain has fallen at a critical growth stage, Lee said.

"This rain has come at a time when the crop is about ready to go through its reproductive stage of tasseling and silking," Lee said.

Some corn is in the early stages of kernel development, a time when the corn plant needs extra water, he said. "This has been a most timely rain."

Corn harvest will start in August.

Wheat farmers aren't as happy with the rain. Heavy rain has interrupted the last part of the harvest and has reduced the quality of the crop left in fields, Lee said.

Other Georgia crops, though, have benefitted from timely rain. About 94 percent of the cotton and tobacco and 95 percent of the pecan crop are in good to excellent condition.

Many farmers hope the rain their crops didn't use will find a way to streams, ponds and groundwater to be used later in the season for irrigation, Beasley said.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.