South Georgia peanut harvest starts early - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia peanut harvest starts early

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –South Georgia farmers are already starting to harvest their 2010 peanut crop.

The extremely hot summer has farmers digging up the peanuts a little earlier than usual.  But so far the news is good for the number one South Georgia industry, peanut farming.

Lee County farmer Pete Griffith is happy with the peanuts he is harvesting today. He figures the yield at five thousand pounds per acre. That is just below last year's exceptional total, but still very good. But the cost is the highest ever.

Lee County USDA Farm Service Agency Hank Hammond said "It's the most expensive crop that our producers have ever grown."

Fertilizer, seed, and chemical prices were near all time highs, and farmers had to heavily irrigate their crops during the long stretches of days with hundred degree plus temperatures.

The glut of peanuts in storage has been cleared out by world demand, and the price of the crop has stayed up, at about $425 dollars a ton.

Hammond said "Russia and China are your two big players on the global market and a lot of what they are growing is off this year, which is going to cause the price to increase here."

Also some South America countries have decreased production so the demand for South Georgia peanuts will be high. Manufacturers are expected to stock up on peanuts this year, because prices are expected to increase next year.

The USDA forecasts that Georgia peanut production will be about 11 percent higher than last year. That combined with the strong price is good news for the struggling state economy, as peanuts see a strong market with the harvest underway.

The yield and production numbers for irrigated crops in Georgia is good, but not for dryland peanuts. Nearly half of Georgia's peanut crop is dryland, and most of those were lost in the summer's heat.

Peanuts aren't the only crop farmers are harvesting a lot earlier than usual.

Farmers in several counties, including Colquitt and Coffee,  have already started harvesting cotton.

They're not bringing in the crop yet in Lee County... But the summer heat did caused many bolls on top of the plants to open much earlier. 

"A particular plant, a particular variety of a crop has a certain number of heat units, what we call degree days that it requires to mature that crop provided that it gets moisture and everything else it needs," said Lee County UGA Extension Agent Doug Collins. "And this year it's been so hot they gotten those in a shorter period of time."

Peanuts were ready in 120 days, when it typically takes 140 days for the plants to mature. It's the same for cotton.

Extension agents say the early harvest could pose problems if farmers can't get the crop in. The longer cotton remains in the field, the quicker the quality can degrade.

 

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