Despite some areas being brushed by Hurricane Katrina in late August, most of the lower Southeast still is projecting good to excellent conditions and yields for row crops.

Georgia growers saw slightly above-normal temperatures for most of August with above-normal rainfall for most of the state. Disease problems have been normal for most crops, with tomato spotted wilt virus ravaging both tobacco and peanuts.

Peanut production in Georgia is forecast at 2.33 billion pounds, compared to last year's 1.83 billion pounds. If this production forecast is realized, it will be the highest on record. Planted acres are at 760,000 and harvested acres at 750,000. Yields across Georgia's peanut belt are expected to average 3,100 pounds per acre or 100 pounds more than last year. As of Sept. 4, 53 percent of the crop was rated good and 18 percent excellent.

Georgia's 2005 cotton crop is forecast to average 762 pounds of lint per harvested acre or 88 pounds more than last year. Acreage expected to be harvested this fall is estimated at 1,210,000 acres, down 70,000 acres from last year but up 20,000 acres from last month.

Production is estimated at 1.92 million bales or 7 percent more than last year's 1.8 million bales. Cotton has benefitted from the overall good growing conditions this summer. As of Sept. 4, 73 percent of the cotton was rated good to excellent, 23 percent was rated fair, and only 4 percent was rated poor to very poor.

Tobacco yields for 2005 are expected to average 1,700 pounds per acre or 330 pounds less than last year. Acreage harvested is expected to be 16,000 acres or 7,000 acres less than last year. This puts potential production at 27.2 million pounds for the year 2005 or 42 percent less than in 2004. This year's crop has been plagued with disease problems and wet weather. As of early September, 96 percent of the crop had been harvested.

Corn yields in Georgia for 2005 is expected to average 125 bushels per harvested acre or 5 bushels below last year. If this yield is realized, it will be fourth highest on record. Georgia's total corn production is expected to total 27.5 million bushels from 220,000 acres harvested for grain. Production is down 24 percent from last year.

The crop condition for corn was rated 80 percent good to excellent. The corn for grain harvest is behind normal with only 39 percent of the crop harvested by Sept. 4. This harvest progress compares with 66 percent for the five-year average.

Soybean yields in Georgia are forecast at 32 bushels per harvested acre. If this yield is realized, it will be the second highest on record. The crop has benefited from the good summer growing conditions.

Production is forecast at 6.08 million bushels, down significantly from the 8.37 million bushels last year. Harvested acres are estimated at 190,000, the same as the previous month and down 80,000 from last year's 270,000 acres.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulfport/New Orleans area on Aug. 29 and traveled north on a line just west of the Mississippi-Alabama border, causing some damage in southwest Alabama.

Growers were harvesting as much corn as possible before the storm struck, but some fields were damaged by high winds and rainfall that hampered harvest for several days. As of Sept. 2, the condition of the corn crop was 82 percent good to excellent, with yields forecast at 118 bushels per acre, a 2-bushel decrease from earlier estimates.

Alabama’s cotton crop is 76 percent mostly good to excellent, with Hurricane Katrina damaging the crop in the southwestern portion of the state. Younger cotton received leaf damage and mature cotton lost some bolls, with plants being twisted by the high winds. Cotton yield is estimated at 722 pounds per acre.

The peanut crop condition is 81 percent good to excellent, although several fields have reported tomato spotted wilt virus that could affect final yields. Rains were beneficial for the crop, however, wind burn and flooded fields were of concern for some growers. Peanut yield is forecast at 2,800 pound per acre, down 200 pounds from earlier forecasts.

The soybean condition was 78 percent good to excellent with 31 percent dropping leaves. The yield forecast for soybeans is 32 bushels per acres.

Most farmers in Alabama considered damage to Hurricane Katrina to be minimal.

Rainfall from Hurricane Katrina leached fertilizer from cotton fields in north Florida and washed away pesticides, resulting in an increase in insect populations by early September. Small cotton bolls were blown off plants, and some larger bolls were damaged, as the storm crossed over the southern tip of the Peninsula as well as the western Panhandle.

Wet conditions increased the incidence of disease in many Florida peanut fields due to pesticides washing away. Corn was significantly damaged since fields had been hit previously by Hurricane Dennis in the same Panhandle areas. In wetter areas, armyworms in hay fields continued to be a problem with growers unable to spray pesticides for control.

Sporadic rainfall during August interrupted field activities with saturated, muddy fields preventing the application of pesticides to cotton, peanuts and soybeans. Most corn for silage was finished by early August in most Panhandle localities.

Peanut production in Florida is expected to total 420,500,000 pounds, up nearly 16 percent from last year. Yield is set at 2,900 pounds per acre compared to 2,800 pound per acre last year. Acreage to be dug, at 145,000, is up 15,000 acres from last year.

Almost daily rains throughout August lowered the quality of tobacco in Florida. Most growers reported disease infestations, predominately in the northern Peninsula.

Growers expect to harvest 6,720,000 pounds, down 4 percent from earlier forecasts and 31 percent below the 9,800,000 pounds in 2004.

Tobacco yield is forecast at 2,400 pounds per acre, a decrease of 100 pounds from August and 50 pounds from last year. Acreage harvested, at 2,800, is unchanged from earlier estimates but 30 percent lower than in 2004.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com