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First yield forecast shows effects of hot, dry conditions in Southeast

Although scattered rainfall became more frequent in the lower Southeast during August, it was a case of “too little, too late” for many growers. The year's first yield forecast for the region showed the devastating effects of prolonged drought and extreme heat.

In Georgia, all row-crop yields are expected to be down from last year, with the exception of tobacco. Temperatures throughout the growing season have averaged well above normal, and most areas of the state have been extremely dry, with the trends continuing into early August.

Georgia's 2006 cotton crop is forecast to average 632 pounds of lint per harvested acre or 217 pounds per acre less than last year's record-high yield of 849 pounds per acre. As of early August, 38 percent of the state's crop was rated very poor or poor while 35 percent was fair and 27 percent was rated good to excellent. Acreage expected to be harvested this fall is estimated at 1,330,000 acres, up 120,000 acres from last year. Production is estimated at 1,750,000 bales, 18 percent less than last year's 2,140,000 bales.

Peanut production in Georgia for 2006 is forecast at 1.44 billion pounds compared to last year's 2.15 billion pounds. Harvested acres are expected to be 575,000 compared to 750,000 in 2005.

Yields across Georgia's peanut belt are expected to average 2,500 pounds per acre compared to 2,870 pounds last year. If realized, the yield of 2,500 pounds per acre would be the lowest since 1995. The state's peanut crop also has suffered from drought conditions. As of early August, the crop was rated 2-percent excellent, 30-percent good, 38-percent fair and 30-percent poor to very poor.

Georgia's corn yield for 2006 is expected to average 102 bushels per harvested acre or 27 bushels per-acre less than last year's yield of 129 bushels per acre. If this yield is realized, it will be the lowest since 1998.

Above-normal summertime temperatures and dry weather has taken its toll on the corn crop, as Georgia's total corn production is expected to total 24.5 million bushels from 240,000 acres harvested for grain. Production of this size would be 17 percent less than last year. Weather conditions in the spring allowed planting to get a good start. As of early August, 8 percent of the crop had been harvested.

Soybean yields in Georgia are forecast at 25 bushels per harvested acre. If this yield is realized, it will be the lowest since 2002. Production is forecast at 3.75 million bushels, down from the 4.55 million bushels last year.

Planted acres are set at 160,000 acres while harvested acres are estimated to be 150,000 acres. This compares to 180,000 acres planted and 175,000 acres harvested in 2005. Final soybean yield and production will depend heavily on August and September weather conditions.

Tobacco yields for 2006 are expected to average 2,100 pounds per acre or 365 pounds more than last year's yield of 1,735 pounds per acre. Some tobacco has quality problems, with fields being damaged by tomato spotted wilt virus. As of early August, the crop was rated 5-percent very poor, 27-percent poor, 41-percent fair, 24-percent good and 3-percent excellent. Acreage harvested is expected to be 18,000 acres or 2,000 acres more than last year. This puts potential production at 37.8 million pounds for the year 2006 or 36 percent more than in 2005.

Hay production is expected to total 1.38 million tons or 16 percent less than last year. Potential yields are forecast at 2.30 tons per acre compared to 3 tons in 2005. Up to this point, it has been a poor crop due to hot and dry conditions. Acreage cut for hay totals 600,000 acres, up 50,000 acres from last year.

Soil moisture in Alabama has been mostly very short, with some fields being a total loss while others need late-season, saturating rains for any hope of recovery. As of early August, more than 60 percent of the state's cotton crop was in very poor or poor condition with 92 percent squaring, 72 percent setting bolls and 2 percent of bolls open. Alabama's lint yields are estimated to be 430 pounds per acre this year, a 319-pound per-acre decrease from 2005. Production is estimated at 475,000 bales. If realized, this would be the lowest production since 1993.

As of early August, 79 percent of the state's corn crop was in very poor or poor condition as 93 percent had reached the dough stage and 69 percent was dented. Corn yield is forecast at 55 bushels per acre or 64 bushels per acre less than last year and the lowest since 1993.

Dry soil conditions also have left many peanut fields in Alabama questionable, with 61 percent of the crop in fair or good condition and 50 percent in the pegging stage. The expected yield for peanuts is 1,900 pounds per acre, down 850 pounds per acre from a year ago and the lowest in six years.

Dry field conditions have limited the outbreak of Asian soybean rust in Alabama but have left 78 percent of the state's soybeans in very poor or poor condition, with 84 percent blooming and 59 percent setting pods by early August. Soybean yield is estimated at 18 bushels per acre, down 15 bushels from 2005 and the lowest yield since 2000. Production is forecast at 2,250,000 bushels. If realized, this would be the lowest production since 1955.

Hay supplies in Alabama are scarce due the severe lack of rainfall. The current yield is estimated at 1.5 tons per acre, down 1.2 tons per acre from last year and the lowest yield since 1990. Hay production, forecast at 1,065 thousand tons, would be the smallest production since 1983.

Scattered showers in August helped to relieve drought conditions in most areas in the Florida Panhandle, but more rains still were needed to help farmers finish out the production season. Most of the state's irrigated peanuts and cotton were growing on schedule. However, dryland crops were being affected by heat and drought, with yield prospects being reduced significantly.

By late July, in some Panhandle areas, peanut pod set was poor and pressure was heavy from lesser cornstalk borers feeding on plants. Prolonged dry conditions over the Panhandle and northern Peninsula slowed hay growth and lowered hay quality with some producers not making the earliest cuttings. Soil moisture in most areas continued to be depleted with supplies rated mostly short.

Florida's cotton production is expected to total 115,000 bales compared to 135,000 bales harvested last year. Yield per acre is set at 531 pounds, down 231 pounds from the 762 pounds per acre for the 2005 crop. Acreage to be picked is estimated at 104,000 acres, down 19,000 acres from a year ago.

Harvested peanut acreage is forecast at 120,000 acres, down 32,000 acres from last year. Yield is expected to average 2,300 pounds per acre, down 400 pounds from the 2005 crop yield. Production is set at 276 million pounds, down from the 410.4 million pounds produced last year.

Tobacco growers in Florida expect to produce 1.1 million pounds, a decrease of 56 percent from the 2.5 million pounds produced last year. Acreage is set at 2,860 acres, down 48 percent from the 5,500 acres harvested in 2005. Yield is expected to average 2,600 pounds per acre, up 400 pounds from last year.

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