Many growers in the lower Southeast have waited through several drought-plagued years for a growing season like the one they saw in 2003. Farmers responded to what many are calling a "perfect season" by producing record-high yields of several crops, including peanut, corn and soybeans.

Plentiful and timely rainfall during the spring and summer were followed by drier than normal weather in the fall for many growers in Georgia, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

If the latest yield forecast holds true, Georgia farmers will produce record-high yields in peanuts, soybeans and corn in 2003 while Alabama farmers will see record-breaking corn yields.

Peanut production for Georgia is forecast at 1.82 billion pounds, 6 percent more than earlier forecasts and 39 percent more than in 2002. Yield per harvested acre is forecast at 3,400 pounds, 200 more than the previous month’s estimate and 800 pounds more than the 2002 yield.

If this yield is realized, it will be a state record yield for Georgia peanut growers. By the end of October, the majority of the crop had been harvested. Harvesting conditions were very good.

Georgia's corn yield is expected to average 135 bushels per harvested acre, the same as earlier forecasts and 20 bushels per acre more than in 2002. If this yield is realized, it will break the state’s record of 134 bushels per acre set in 2001.

Ample rainfall during the growing season provided growers with an excellent crop. Total corn production is expected to total 41.9 million bushels from 310,000 acres harvested for grain. A production of this size would be 25 percent more than last year.

Soybean production in Georgia for 2003 is expected to total 5.94 million bushels, the same as earlier forecasts and 102 percent more than in 2002. Acreage expected for harvest is at 180,000 acres or 29 percent more than the 140,000 harvested in 2002. Yields are expected to average 33 bushels per acre. This is the same as the previous month’s estimate but 12 bushels per acre more than in 2002.

If this forecast is realized, it will be a Georgia record, beating the previous record of 31 bushels per acre set in 1994. As of the first part of November, 30 percent of the crop had been harvested, which is slightly behind normal.

Georgia's cotton production for 2003 is expected to total 2.15 million

bales (480 pounds), 100,000 bales above earlier forecasts and 572,000 bales above the 2002 production. Harvesting conditions have been excellent, except for a few short delays due to showers. Acreage for harvest, at 1,290,000 acres, remains unchanged from the previous month.

The yield calculates to 800 pounds per harvested acre, which if realized would the second highest on record, topped only by 843 pounds per acre in 1994. By the end of October, about half of the crop had been harvested.

Extension specialists in Georgia are reporting that the quality of this year’s cotton crop also is greatly improved over 2002 numbers. Color grades are the best in many years, fiber strength is improved, and, with very few exceptions, micronaire has been within the acceptable range.

Meanwhile, across the river, favorable weather conditions throughout the crop year also contributed to above-average yields for cotton, corn, peanuts and soybeans in Alabama.

Corn yield in Alabama for 2003 is estimated at 115 bushels per acre, the highest in Alabama history.

The current yield is 33 bushels more than the 10-year state average yield and 8 bushels per acre above the previous record set in 2001. Production is forecast at 24.15 million bushels or 8.31 million bushels more than last year’s production. Harvested area is set at 210,000 acres.

Cotton yield in Alabama is forecast at 772 pounds per acre or 265 pounds above last year’s yield. The November yield is 189 pounds over the 10-year average yield of 583 pounds per acre. The record-high yield is 795 pounds per acre, occurring in 1985. Harvested area is set at 510,000 acres. This area will produce 820,000 bales, up 20,000 bales from earlier forecasts.

The state’s average peanut yield is forecast at 2,900 pounds per acre. This is an increase of 850 pounds from last year’s yield of 2,050 pounds per acre. The 10-year average is 2,117 pounds per acre. Peanut production is estimated at 548.1 million pounds. Harvested area is set at 189,000 acres.

Alabama’s soybean production is estimated at 5.27 million bushels. This total production comes from 155,000 acres with an average yield of 34 bushels per acre, just 1 bushel below the record set in 2001. The 10-year state average yield is 26 bushels per acre.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com