Near ideal conditions in 2000 helped North Carolina cotton farmers produce 1.44 million bales of cotton, shattering a production record set way back before the Great Depression.

The state's farmers also set records in soybeans, corn and flue-cured tobacco and increased yields in peanuts and burley from the previous year.

Cotton was the big benefactor from timely rains at planting and the absence of surplus moisture at harvest, according to the North Carolina Agricultural Statistics (NCAS). North Carolina cotton production hit 1.44 million bales. The previous record of 1.21 million bales was set in 1926.

Both the cotton acreage planted and harvested — 930,000 and 925,000, respectively — were the highest since 1937. Yields averaged 747 pounds per acre, 272 pounds above 1999's flood-damaged crop and the highest since 1994.

North Carolina soybean growers also took advantage of the near-ideal conditions to produce an estimated 44.9 million bushels, the highest level since 1984. They also set a 33 bushel per acre milestone. The previous record of a 31-bushel per acre average yield was set in 1994.

Flue-cured farmers benefited from season-long moisture and lack of destructive weather patterns to average 2,500 pounds per acre, a new record-average yield, according to NCAS. The previous record high was set in 1994, at 2,478 pounds per acre.

Overall, flue-cured production was estimated at 407.5 million pounds, a seven percent decrease from 1999. Harvested acres were estimated at 163,000, some 37,000 less than 1999.

Despite a decrease in corn acreage, production rose to 75.4 million bushels, a 24.2 million bushels increase over 1999 levels. A record-setting 116 bushels per acre made up the difference in 20,000 fewer acres planted. Farmers planted 730,000 acres of corn in 2000.

Peanut farmers also rebounded from last year's flood damage, averaging 2,900 pounds per acre. Heavy rains at harvest created disease problems that reduced yield gains. Production was forecast at 35.6 million pounds.

The burley crop in the Tar Heel State also showed improvement in per acre average yield, but slipped in overall production over 1999. Yields averaged 1,650 pounds per acre, 50 pounds more than 1999. Production is estimated at 12.2 million pounds, two percent less than 1999 levels. NCAS attributes the decline in production to a decrease in planted and harvested acreage. Plantings fell 400 acres to 7,400 in 2000 and harvested acres dropped five percent from the previous year.

A complete listing of North Carolina crops' acreage, yield and production is available at http://www.ncagr.com/stat.