After suffering from droughts just a year ago, Georgia’s $71.1 billion farming industry is facing losses while the rain continues to fall, pushing back the planting and harvesting of fields in counties neighboring the Augusta area.
Wade Parker, the county extension coordinator at the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Office in Jenkins County, said farmers who grow wheat, cotton and corn have been hit particularly hard this season by rain.
In 2011, Georgia cotton yields were valued at more than $1.5 billion, according to UGA’s Cooperative Extension Web site.
“With cotton, we’re at about 50 percent of our normal crop,” Parker said. “The wet weather has hampered root development, and the overall crop is at best poor to fair.”
Though irrigated cotton produced more than 1,300 pounds per acre about this time last year, Parker said the same fields will yield less than 500 pounds this season.
Harvesting woes began with the wheat crop, which was left in the fields as farmers couldn’t reach it with their equipment. Parker estimates that 20 percent of the wheat crop was left behind. Much of the harvested crop was damaged, cutting the value in half.
“The short answer is, for a lot of crops it’s been a soggy mess,” said Pam Knox, an agricultural climatologist at UGA.
Adding to the headache, wet conditions have made fields the ideal breeding ground for fungus.
“Farmers are struggling to get into the fields to fertilize and put out fungicide,” Knox said. “The chemicals have to stay on the leaves so long to be effective, but near-daily rains are washing the chemicals away and forcing farmers to attempt to put the chemicals out again.”
Pam Sapp, an agriculture agent at the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Office in Jefferson County, said rains have pushed back the corn harvest.
Georgia’s corn yield was valued at more than $311 million in 2011.
“Corn is typically a plant that requires a lot more water, but there’s too much of a good thing, too,” she said.
Parker said he’s worried about the quality of the corn crop when the weather clears.
“Many areas in the county have received eight to 10 inches of rain in the last seven days,” he said. “The quality of the corn crop is going to be down, we just don’t know how much until the rain stops. If things don’t improve, we could see some serious damage.”
Sapp said she isn’t sure what the farmers can do to fight the soggy conditions except wait until the rain subsides.
“Unless they can do an anti-rain dance, I don’t know,” she said.