Almost every growing season has its challenges, but the worst-case scenario is for one season to have every challenge. Georgia vegetable growers may feel like that was the case in 2007.
Growers quickly realized that 2007 was going to be difficult when they awoke on Easter Sunday to find frost covering much of south Georgia.
With everything from sweet corn to watermelons already in the ground, the late cold snap was certainly not a welcome sight. Several fields took a real beating with the frost and it set the spring crop on its heels right out of the gate.
That was quickly followed by two weeks of windy conditions which made matters even worse. By the time the first of May rolled around, the vegetable crop still looked like it had barely gotten started.
If that wasn't enough, add to the mix there was barely 1 inch of rain combined in the months of March, April and May. Those conditions resulted in late crops for a lot of growers.
However, dry conditions can have advantages for vegetables. Generally, drier conditions mean less disease, although high thrips populations did result in substantial tomato spotted wilt virus in some pepper and tomato fields.
Despite all the adversity, many growers did have some good yields of quality fruit. However, prices were not anything to brag about which was just one more challenge for growers. Many melon growers were hurt by the late frost and had later melons. Early melon prices held strong, but the later prices dipped for many growers and yields were down.
Conditions for the second summer crops started on the opposite end of the spectrum. Extremely hot temperatures in late July and early August resulted in difficulty for growers getting a stand in many crops such as snap beans, cucumbers and squash.
Several fields had to be replanted as soil temperatures soared well above normal.
As if that and a continuation of dry conditions were not enough, growers saw some of the worst outbreaks of whiteflies in memory. The whiteflies led to additional problems with such things as light color in squash and beans and severe outbreaks of tomato yellow leaf curl virus. Bacterial diseases also took their toll.
Ultimately, for the second-season crops, if they survived the plagues, the prices were fairly decent for many crops including peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and late-harvested beans. The only problem is that yields were low on many crops and good prices do not help much when there is nothing to sell.
The bottom line is that those growers who had produce to sell probably invested quite a lot in getting it to harvest. Therefore, making any profit was contingent upon higher prices.
Certainly, the hurricanes of 2004 were a major challenge for vegetable producers in Georgia. However, the combination of problems during the 2007 season was overall likely a greater challenge.
As planting time for 2008 is just around the corner, vegetable growers are hoping that their skills won't be tested as severely as they were in the past nine months.