TIFT CO., GA (WALB) - A mild winter and a rainy summer have created some big problems for farmers.
Watermelon crops were hit hard by disease, brought on by increased rainfall around harvest time in June in southwest Georgia.
University of Georgia professor Timothy Coolong says disease led farmers to leave more melons in the field, leading to lower yields.
He said the majority of watermelon crops have already been harvested, though there are around 300 to 400 acres planted for the market that runs from August to Labor Day.
He said most watermelon growers, though, are already looking toward next year. He said the hope is for a drier summer, rather than another rainy season.
"They can irrigate whenever they need to supply the crop, the water nutrients that it needs," Coolong said. "But when we have these heavy rain events that are almost daily, that poses disease problems and with them, they're a little more difficult to control."
Coolong said vegetable growers are also fighting against a large white fly population brought on by a mild winter. White flies can spread plant viruses. Those viruses can make production more challenging for farmers.
Farmers have to spray more often to keep white flies at bay. A virus can easily wipe out the majority of a crop.
Coolong said data is still being collected to determine the economic loss viruses and disease caused this year. He said virus pressure from last fall caused around a $40 million loss.
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