Lee County, GA (WALB) – With the economy still struggling, Georgia needs agriculture, the state's leading industry, to give it a boost.
This winter's heavy rains kept many South Georgia farmers from harvesting their wheat crop, and the heads sprouted and ruined in the rain. University of Georgia agriculture researchers say now they expect about a six percent increase in the number of acres of peanuts planted this year.
Wendell Arrington is working over time to get 160 acres of peanuts planted as soon as possible, because the soil temperature and other conditions are just perfect.
"Got to get it done. Got to get the crops in right now," said U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agency County Executive Director Hank Hammond.
Even if there is a big pond right in the middle of the field, they can't wait for it to dry out. They plant around it.
"Come as close to it as you can, and keep on going," said Field hand Amos Floyd. "We'll come back later and plant some soybeans."
This field was too wet this winter to harvest wheat. In Lee County only 1,500 acres of wheat were harvested because of persistent rain. Normally more than 10,000 acres are planted. So farmers have increased the number of acres of corn, peanuts, and cotton they will plant, to make up for those losses.
"That makes it real important we try to plant something, since we couldn't get the wheat in," Floyd said.
University of Georgia researchers say Georgia farmers will increase the number of peanut acres planted about 6%, around 540,000 acres. Last year the state's farmers set a record yield with more than 3500 pounds per acre. Growers believe they can have another great yield, if they get their peanuts in the fields this week, so the race is on.
"With the time farmers being what they are, they've got to get that crop in the ground right now. And they are just having to plant around the wet areas right now." Hammond said.
"Yes, really do. I believe the Lord gonna look out for us, and let us make what we can," Floyd said.
Most farmers have their corn in the ground and growing well already. Many will plant a large crop of peanuts in the next few weeks, and then move on to planting cotton. So you can expect to see a lot of tractors in the fields now.
The contract price for peanuts right now is $450 per ton, and many are hoping to receive around $500. Once again seed and fertilizer prices increased, so they are hoping for another record yield to make up for the loss of the wheat crop.
If they get their peanuts in the ground this week, most South Georgia farmers should be harvesting by mid September or early October.
That crop success will be vital to South Georgia's economic well being.