Above-normal rainfall amounts this year are translating into record-breaking crop yields for some Georgia farmers, according to the state's Agricultural Statistics Service. The first forecast of 2003 for Georgia's row crops indicates that yields and production are up markedly from last year.

Rainfall during 2003, unlike the past five drought-stricken years, is well above normal. Some areas of the state were nearing annual averages for rainfall by Aug. 1. The abundance of rain has caused an excellent forecast for all crop yields. This early forecast is based on a survey of growers and field measurements during the first part of August.

Georgia's corn yield for 2003 is expected to average 140 bushels per harvested acre or 25 bushels above last year's yield of 115 bushels per acre. If this yield is realized it will break the state record of 134 bushels per acre set in 2001.

Temperatures and above-normal rainfall have provided growers with an excellent crop. Georgia's total corn production is expected to total 46.2 million bushels from 330,000 acres harvested for grain. Production of this size would be 39 percent more than last year. The corn for grain harvest is off to a slow start with only 9 percent harvested by Aug. 10 compared with the five-year average of 23 percent.

U.S. corn production is forecast at 10.1 billion bushels, up 12 percent from last year and 2 percent above 2001. Based on conditions as of Aug. 1, yields are expected to average 139.9 bushels per acre, up 9.9 bushels from last year. If realized, both production and yield would be the largest on record.

The previous record for both was set in 1994 when production was estimated at slightly below the 10.1 billion bushels being forecast for 2003 and yield was 138.6 bushels per acre. Yields are higher in all states east of the Mississippi River, as favorable precipitation and temperatures have been received since planting occurred.

With the exception of Iowa and Minnesota, predicted yields in all the Corn Belt states are increasing from last year. However, both states are forecasting lower yields from record 2002 estimates. Farmers expect to harvest 71.9 million acres of corn for grain, down 70,000 acres from June but up 4 percent from 2002.

Georgia's 2003 cotton crop is forecast to average 744 pounds of lint per harvested acre, 187 pounds more than in 2002. Cotton has benefited from the excellent growing conditions this summer, but growers need drier weather entering the fall.

As of Aug. 10, only 3 percent of the state's crop was rated very poor or poor, while 22 percent was fair and 75 percent was rated good to excellent. Acreage expected to be harvested this fall is estimated at 1,290,000 acres, down 70,000 acres from last year. Production is estimated at 2,000,000 bales, 27 percent above last year's 1,578,000 bales.

U.S. cotton production is forecast at 17.1 million 480-pound bales, down 1 percent from last year's 17.2 million bales. The yield is expected to average 667 pounds per harvested acre, up 2 pounds from 2002.

Upland cotton production is forecast at 16.7 million 480-pound bales, 1 percent above 2002. American-Pima production is forecast at 450,500 bales, down 34 percent from last year's output. Producers expect to harvest 12.3 million acres of all cotton, 1 percent below last year.

Upland cotton harvested area, at 12.1 million acres, is 60,000 acres less than a year ago. American-Pima harvested area is expected to total 178,400 acres, 26 percent less than 2002. Texas increased American-Pima planted area by 4,000 acres, resulting in a total U.S. American-Pima planted estimate of 180,000 acres.

Peanut production in Georgia is forecast at 1.71 billion pounds, compared with last year's 1.31 billion pounds. Harvested acres are expected to be 535,000 compared with 505,000 in 2002. Yields across Georgia's peanut belt are expected to average 3,200 pounds per acre compared with 2,600 pounds last year.

As of Aug. 10, the crop was rated 22 percent excellent, 57 percent good, 18 percent fair and only 3 percent poor.

U.S. peanut production is forecast at 3.96 billion pounds, up 19 percent from last year's crop but down 7 percent from 2001. Area for harvest is expected to total 1.28 million acres, 5 percent above the June estimate but down 2 percent from 2002.

Yields are expected to average a record-high 3,102 pounds per acre, 544 pounds per acre above the 2002 level. Planted acres, at 1.32 million, are 5 percent above the June estimate but 3 percent below 2002.

Soybean yields in Georgia are forecast at 33 bushels per harvested acre. If this yield is realized, it will be a state record, beating the previous record of 31 bushels per acre in 1994. The crop has benefited from the ample rainfall. Production is forecast at 5.61 million bushels, up significantly from the 2.94 million bushels last year.

Planted acres are set at 180,000 acres while harvested acres are estimated to be 170,000 acres. This compares to 160,000 acres planted and 140,000 acres harvested in 2002. Final soybean yield and production will depend heavily on August and September weather conditions.

U.S. soybean production is forecast at 2.86 billion bushels, up 5 percent from 2002 but down 1 percent from 2001. Based on Aug. 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 39.4 bushels per acre, up 1.6 bushels from 2002.

Yields are higher than 2002 across much of the United States. However, the average yield in Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma is expected to be lower while yields are expected to be the same in Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and North Dakota. Area for harvest, at 72.6 million acres, is down 55,000 acres from June but up 1 percent from 2002 acreage.

Georgia tobacco yields for 2003 are expected to average 2,200 pounds per acre, 100 pounds more than last year's yield of 2,100 pounds per acre. This year's crop has been good and not plagued with the disease problems of the 2002 crop.

At the end of July, the crop was rated 7 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 50 percent good and 10 percent excellent. Acreage harvested is expected to be 29,000 acres or 2,500 acres above last year. This puts potential production at 63.8 million pounds for the year 2003, 15 percent more than 2002.

U.S. tobacco production for 2003 is forecast at 840 million pounds, down 5 percent from 2002 and 15 percent below 2001. If realized, this will be the smallest crop since 1908. Area for harvest is forecast at 413,710 acres, down 3 percent from 2002.

Yields for 2003 are expected to average 2,031 pounds per acre, 24 pounds lower than a year ago. Yields in North Carolina, the leading tobacco-producing state, are expected to be lower than last year by 83 pounds. Kentucky, the second leading state, expects yields to average 71 pounds above a year ago.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com