The Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
The University of Georgia

Research Report Number 686
January 2003


J. LaDon Day, Anton E. Coy, Stevan S. LaHue,
Larry G. Thompson, Paul A. Rose, and John P. Beasley, Editors

The Season

Row crop producers in Georgia had marginal soil moisture during the Spring but managed to get a summer crop planted and established before drought and high temperatures returned to the state for the fifth consecutive year. Growing conditions did not improve as low rainfall and high temperatures occurred across the state. Dryland producers struggled controlling pests.

The severe drought that began in April 1998 continued during 2002 and appeared unbreakable until mid-September when tropical storm Hanna came into southwest Georgia. Hanna produced beneficial rainfall for most of the state but the southwest portion of the state around Donalsonville received 12 to 15 inches of torrential rainfall. The disaster continued two weeks later when tropical storm Isidore came out of the gulf into Georgia and the wet, cloudy, drizzly weather continued over the next two months due to the remnants of Hurricane Lilli and numerous rain producing fronts.

Rainfall for the five Georgia test sites is listed below. Total seasonal rainfall amounts were below normal for the fifth consecutive year, but most of the deficit was reduced by the very wet fall.

2002 Rainfall1

Month Athens2 Attapulgus Midville Plains Tifton
-------------------------------------- inches -------------------------------------
March 6.76 6.69 5.00 5.03 5.16
April 1.29 1.32 1.61 2.44 2.62
May 3.63 3.81 1.49 1.09 0.78
June 4.79 7.02 2.32 2.64 0.60
July 2.60 2.76 2.62 5.27 3.35
August 1.43 3.52 3.46 3.04 2.30
September 6.45 7.03 4.62 3.80 4.12
October 3.20 3.66 3.66 3.65 6.06
November 5.09 5.97 4.86 3.55 4.90
Total 35.24 41.78 29.64 30.51 29.89
Normal (9 mo) 35.92 - 37.35 37.99 37.62
1. Data provided in part by Dr. G. Hoogenboom, Georgia Station, Griffin, GA.
2. Plant Sciences Farm.

Georgia farmers during 2002 increased planted acres of peanuts 8% and tobacco 4% but acres of cotton declined 4%.

Overall the 2002 growing season was extremely difficult for farmers due to high temperatures, drought, disease, and pests, plus prolonged, extremely wet fall weather. One example is the very high incidence of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus on the peanut crop which was the worst TSWV since the 1997 crop year.

The harvest season had a timely beginning, but quickly fell behind due to prolonged drizzly, wet weather as mentioned earlier. Wet fields caused delays and many problems for producers. Both quality and crop yield were reduced. In our variety evaluation plots across the state, the wet, continuously cloudy, and drizzly weather caused uneven maturity in crops, and wet soils delayed harvest.

Production reports on peanuts, cotton and tobacco this year indicate a reduction in per acre yield for all three commodities. State average peanut acre yield was 730 lbs/acre less than last year, down 22%. Cotton yields were down 18% (133 pounds less per acre) with total production 25% less than last year. Total tobacco production was down 14% as result of crop with a per acre yield 400 lbs/acre less than 2001 (17% reduction). The quality of harvested crops during 2002 was poor due to high temperatures and drought during most of the growing season, but wet fields and delayed harvest inflicted a terrible toll, especially on the cotton crop.

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