The first yield forecast for 2006 is a dismal one for farmers in Alabama and Florida. 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.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com