Georgia Crops Threatened by Warm Winter Weather

January 12, 2016

Georgia farmers have endured a winter that wouldn’t start and rains that wouldn’t quit.

The state’s pecan, peach and blueberry crops have been threatened by too many warm days and too much water, growers across Georgia said recently.

The final month of 2015 was the second-rainiest December on record, with consistently warm days and nights, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Now, with the weather becoming wintry, growers hope their crops haven’t suffered too much damage.

Hard rains in late fall and early winter have dampened projects for the state’s pecan harvest, said Randy Hudson, a grower in Ocilla, about 95 miles south of Macon.

“Oh my Lord, I’ve got ducks swimming in pecan orchards,” Hudson said recently, as more rains swept the state. “We never, in our wildest imaginations, thought there would be so much rain, or snow, in the pecan belt.”

The council represents growers from North Carolina to California. Nearly every state in the organization has experienced bad weather during the late-year harvest, Hudson said.

Georgia has been particularly hard-hit, Hudson said. Groves have been too wet to accommodate heavy harvesting machinery. Growers had anticipated harvesting about 130 million pounds this season but now hope to take in 80 million pounds – an estimated $100 million shortfall.

“This has been the most difficult harvest I can remember,” said Hudson, whose groves encompass 1,500 acres. “I’ve got ducks harvesting the pecans.”

The warm weather in the last part of 2015 has also bedeviled blueberry and peach growers, said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Grower’s Association.

The organization represents about 350 farms and packing facilities across the state.

Blueberries are a $335 million crop in Georgia, the nation’s largest producer of the tiny blue fruit. Georgia’s last peach crop netted growers $53 million.

In Tifton, Bob Welker, who owns and operates Berry Good Farms, spent the last day of 2015 in much the same way he’d passed the previous weeks. He worried that early-blooming blueberries might be susceptible to frost later this winter.

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