Georgia growers ditch cotton for other crops - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia growers ditch cotton for other crops

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By Alicia Eakin - bio | email

October 3, 2008

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - If you drive through Lowndes County...finding a cotton field like this is no easy job.

That's because cotton growers like Ellis Black are making the switch from cotton to soybeans.

"I've been growing around 300 acres of cotton. That's the amount of land I have in row crops.  We changed back this year to growing about half soybeans half cotton."

Growers in Lowndes aren't the only ones making a change.

In Berrien County, growers are making the switch from cotton to peanuts.

"We increased our peanut acres. We're 20,000 or so peanut acres which is about 40% of the crop land," says Berrien County Extension Agent Tim Flanders

They say cotton is a high input, high risk crop and fertilizer prices have skyrocketed. Crops like peanuts and soybeans will cost less, use less and hopefully make more.

"I can grow soy beans this year and hold back on the fertilizer. In later years I'll put a little extra fertilizer to catch back up," Black.

"Peanuts are such a scavenger for nutrients you don't have to fertilize them to much," Flanders says.

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin says these changes are happening all over the state.

"We've really been reducing our cotton and increasing in soybeans and corn because there's real good, strong prices at the market place," Irvin says.

He says it's a positive switch.  "For many years we wanted to see a situation where farmers would have a selection of crops to choose from to make other crop patterns," Irvin adds.

One that will help farmers stay afloat while the economy struggles.

The growers we spoke with said once the economy picks up, they'll consider making the switch back to cotton.

But that decision will depend on the risk, the weather and the market price.

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