Published on 07/05/02

Rains Relieve Georgia Peanut, Cotton Crops

"The rains could not have come on a more timely basis," said John Beasley, a peanut agronomist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "Those fields needed the rain as soon as possible. And hopefully, most of them got what they have needed."

Peanuts Bounce Back

Peanut plants can generally handle early-season drought stress and bounce back if they get enough rain later in the season, he said.

Georgia's peanut crop is worth about $350 million annually.

Though heavy at times, the recent rain has fallen mostly as scattered thunderstorms. That means some folks have gotten less than others or no rain at all.

"There are still a few areas that have not gotten the rainfall they need," Beasley said.

But in the fifth straight year of drought, Georgia farmers will take any rain anywhere right now.

The state's peanut crop is now entering the part of the growing season when it needs the most water, Beasley said. It will need about two inches a week for the next six to eight weeks.

"Rarely do we get that rainfall pattern," Beasley said. "Irrigation is needed to make up the difference."

Good growing conditions last year benefitted this year, too. The peanut crop grown last year for seed was excellent, he said, giving this year's crop a good head start.

However, dry weather late this spring delayed planting into late May and early June. This early dry weather opened the gates to some insects and disease, causing crop damage in places, he said.

It also looks as if the number of cases of tomato spotted wilt virus will be very heavy again this year, Beasley said. Georgia farmers have been battling TSWV for many years. It can cause severe crop loss.

But many farmers have reduced potential damage of the virus by following the guidelines of the UGA TSWV Risk Index.

"This year I would have to say the majority of the Georgia peanut belt is in good shape," Beasley said.

Comfortable Cotton

Much like peanuts, Georgia's cotton crop needed the recent rains, said to Steve Brown, a UGA cotton agronomist.

"In many places the crop is in good shape," Brown said. "But the showers have been scattered. And those areas that have missed altogether are reaching the point of desperation. Some are even past the point of desperation. In those places, the crop is essentially finished."

The cotton crop has reached the bloom stage of development. As is the case with peanuts, getting enough moisture becomes critical during this time.

"Generally, prospects are good if we receive broad rain frequently in the coming weeks," Brown said.

Tiny early-season insects known as thrips were particularly tough this year. "But we're past that now," he said.

An unusually high number of aphids have surprised some cotton farmers. Aphids can suck the life out of cotton plants. But there's something out there now keeping the population in check, Brown said.

"A biological control for aphids, a naturally occurring fungus, is beginning to knock aphid populations down," he said. "We rarely spray for them. We routinely rely on this fungus to eliminate them."

July marks the beginning "of real insect problems" in cotton, he said. For the next six to seven weeks, farmers and cotton scouts will have to be vigilant.

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