DONALSONVILLE, GA (AP)--Southwest Georgia farmers scrambled to salvage their peanut crops following a torrential soaking from Tropical Storm Hanna, while agricultural officials in the Carolinas predicted major cotton losses from the heavy rain.
Willard Mims, who has 650 acres of peanuts and 1,300 acres of cotton near Donalsonville, said Wednesday, Sept. 18, he still has standing water in some fields. The storm dumped 14 to 16 inches of rain in Donalsonville early Sunday, flooding 250 homes and 54 businesses.
Agricultural losses in Donalsonville and surrounding Seminole County could run into the millions of dollars, said Rome Ethridge, the county's agricultural extension coordinator, whose office was awash with a foot of water Sunday morning, Sept. 15.
Georgia farmers were most worried about peanuts because they are at a critical stage. If they are not dug out of the ground on schedule, the nuts tend to break off and don't get picked up by harvesting equipment.
Cotton picking has just started in the South, with about seven percent of Georgia's crop harvested. The timing is not as critical for cotton, so many farmers, who often grow both crops, are focusing on peanuts.
"I'm trying to plow peanuts in wet dirt," Mims said. "It's better to get what you can ... rather than lose more. We know we have some places we're going to have to leave because of water."
With a fifth year of drought in much of the South, cotton has suffered because of the dry conditions. Even before Hanna's deluge, only 38% of Georgia's cotton crop was rated good to excellent.
Heavy rain and wind can cause the lint to drop off, lowering cotton yields.
Excessive rain also can cause other problems--boll rot, discolored lint that is less valuable and a condition known as "hard lock," which makes cotton almost impossible to pick.
Georgia farmers planted 1.5 million acres of cotton and 500,000 acres of peanuts this year.
North Carolina farmers, with 970,000 acres of cotton, have endured two tropical storms this month: Gustav, which brushed the eastern part of the state before turning into a hurricane, and Hanna, which brought even more rain.
"We didn't have a good crop to start with and the storms certainly didn't help," said Keith Edmisten, a cotton specialist with North Carolina State University. "It'll be picked. It's just not going to be very good."
Mike Jones, a Clemson University cotton specialist, said South Carolina farmers planted about 300,000 acres of cotton this year. The crop had been plagued all summer with inadequate rainfall, but has had too much over the past three weeks, he said.