By Brad Haire
University of Georgia
After a dry spring and planting time, Georgia's peanut and cotton crops are benefitting from the wet start to summer caused by scattered but numerous showers across the state.
Since Memorial Day weekend, peanut farmers have seen exactly the weather they like: warm temperatures and high humidity creating rain clouds, said John Beasley, a peanut agronomist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.
"The rain has come mostly as scattered thunderstorms," Beasley said. "Some fields have received more than others, but most fields have received some rain in the last three weeks."
The dry spring caused some disease and insect problems. But so far Georgia's peanut crop is in good shape for this time of the season.
Tomato spotted wilt virus damage
Peanut farmers will probably have to accept some losses to the tomato spotted wilt virus this year. Georgia's tobacco crop has already been hit particularly hard by the virus and this usually indicates the virus will be tough on peanuts as well, Beasley said.
TSWV is spread by small insects known as thrips. Thrips pass the virus to plants when they feed on them. The virus reproduces and spreads throughout entire plants. In many cases, it dwarfs the plants. Yields can be low or nonexistent if the virus attacks plants early in their growth.
Scattered showers have put some farmers behind on fungicide and herbicide applications, Beasley said. This could cause some problems later in the season.
But peanut farmers, in most cases, prefer to deal with the problems associated with a wet year over the ones related to a dry year, he said.
Georgia farmers are expected to grow about 565,000 acres of peanuts this year, a little more than last year.
Cotton crop a little larger this year
Georgia's cotton likes the current weather, too, says Steve Brown, a cotton agronomist with the UGA Extension Service.
Cotton farmers have had to keep an eye on weed control. They will need to be vigilant of any insect damage in coming months, he said.
Georgia growers are expected to produce about 1.35 million acres of cotton this year, a little more than last year.
The rain has made plant canopies healthy and lush up to this point. But Brown says nature's water tap doesn't need to turn off any time soon.
Most peanut plants are blooming right now in fields and cotton plants are beginning their blooming stage. For the next two months both crops will need about two inches of water, either from rain or irrigation, per week to sustain good growth and yields.
Peanut demand high, cotton demand low
The demand for peanut butter and consumer peanut products is growing, says Nathan Smith, a peanut economist with the UGA Extension Service. Consumer demand is up about 8 percent from this time last year.
He attributes the higher demand to more peanut-based products on the market, farmer-funded promotions and trendy high-protein diets. Peanuts are high source of protein.
To keep up with this demand, U.S. peanut farmers need to have a good year. To meet the increase in demand and sustain current stockpiles, U.S. growers need to average about 2,900 pounds per acre this year, Smith said.
U.S. peanut farmers have averaged about 2,650 per acre over the last ten years. This average includes the 2003 crop, which was a record year for yields.
Cotton prices have dropped drastically to about 53 cents per pound, ten cents less than just two months ago, says Don Shurley, a cotton economist with the UGA Extension Service.
Prices fluctuate and typically drop during summer months, but this cotton price drop has come early this year.
Shurley says several factors have contributed to the price reduction:
- The United States is expected to have a large crop this year.
- The World Trade Organization recently ruled against the United States and brought into question certain U.S. cotton farm policies.
- U.S. textile mills slowed down their cotton usage.
- The volume of U.S. cotton exports has declined.
(Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)