Edited by J. LaDon Day, Paul L. Raymer, and Anton E. Coy

The Season

As the planting season for small grains approached, soil moisture conditions were extremely low statewide due to a two month drought. Field conditions changed rapidly from too dry to too wet during October. Wet fields made planting difficult and continued heavy rains caused severe soil erosion and flooding. Consequently, planting was continually delayed and many farmers were forced to replant. The overall result was a very late planted crop. Continued adverse weather and waning wheat prices dramatically reduced planted acres. Acreage planted to wheat was the lowest in 20 years at 290,000 acres. Other small grain crops experienced a similar reduction in acres planted.

Rainfall amounts recorded monthly at the five test locations during the 1997-98 growing season are presented in the following table. The entire state received above normal rainfall. Rainfall amounts were highest at Plains where amounts of over 22 inches above normal were reported for the season.

1997-98 Rainfall1

Month Year Calhoun2 Griffin Midville Plains Tifton

--------------------------------- inches ------------------------------
October 1997 7.91 4.38 5.17 5.85 6.05
November 1997 2.97 4.17 4.35 7.96 5.71
December 1997 3.30 6.03 6.42 7.18 8.34
January 1998 4.45 5.82 4.79 5.31 5.26
February 1998 7.26 7.49 6.78 6.88 4.54
March 1998 5.54 4.95 7.04 7.32 8.06
April 1998 8.91 7.59 6.83 9.16 3.52
May 1998 2.85 2.30 2.90 4.31 2.44
Total (8 months) 43.19  42.73  44.28  53.97  43.92 
Normal (8 months) 37.91  33.43  28.12  31.55  28.09 

1. Data collected by Dr. G. Hoogenboom, Georgia Station, Griffin, GA.
2. Floyd County location.

Overall, the 1997-98 small grain growing season in Georgia was characterized by a mild and wet winter followed by a dry and hot spring. Lack of adequate vernalization was a problem especially for late maturing varieties. A cold front during mid-March sent temperatures plunging into the teens over much of the state (Calhoun 11 F). Fortunately, the crops in the lower two-thirds of the state did not sustain severe damage.

Pests of small grains were held to low levels during the growing season due to a mild winter and a hot dry spring. Hessian fly infestations reached damaging levels in some fields in the southern part of the state. The new Hessian fly biotype (biotype L) expanded its range in the northern part of the state and into the Upper Coastal Plain region. Another pest, the cereal leaf beetle, reached damaging levels in northwest Georgia and in some areas of the lower Piedmont.

Small grain harvest progressed rapidly during a very hot and dry May and June. Only 240,000 acres of wheat were harvested for grain. This was only two-thirds of last year's acreage, and the lowest since 1979. The statewide average yield per acre of wheat was estimated at 43 bushels with production only 68 percent of that in 1997. Production of other small grain crops was also down about two-thirds compared to last year.