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Dust bowl in Bulloch County
Drought affects crops, increases fire danger
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Bulloch County Agent Bill Tyson, right, says the weeks of drought are having a negative effect on crops, especially later-planted cotton and peanuts

Bulloch County Agent Bill Tyson walked through a cotton field Tuesday, accessing the crop’s growth during a severely dry period the southeast region is experiencing.

After an especially hot and dry summer, having had no significant rainfall since just after Hurricane Dorian, the weeks of drought are having a negative effect on crops, especially later-planted cotton and peanuts, he said.

Harvesting as already begun in some areas, but with later-planted fields, rain is needed. “We sure need some moisture for them to mature.”

Bulloch County is about 10 inches in deficit for rainfall, he said. Creeks are dry, rivers are at low levels, and any activity in the fields right now bring clouds of dust.

The drought is regional and the danger to crops is county-wide, he said. “There is no place anywhere in Bulloch County that can say it has had adequate moisture.”

This is the time of year when farmers start thinking about planting cover crops and winter forage for cattle, but if no rain comes, planting the crops would be futile. “With no rain, you can’t get it to germinate,” Tyson said.

The dry weather may be ideal for harvesting, but pasture land, as well as late soybeans, cotton and peanuts “are suffering,” he said.

Fire danger

The hot, dry conditions are not only hurting crops, but create conditions that seem to make brush and grass fires happen more often, said Bulloch County Fire Chief Christopher Ivey.

There have been 108 grass or brush fires in the county so far this year, mostly occurring since June, he said. “A lot of t hose fires have resulted in other damages to vehicles and structures.”

When it is this dry, it doesn’t take a great deal to start fires, Lightning, a cigarette, a spark from a car muffler – paired with parched grass, wood and debris, the recipe is right for flames.

A recent house fire on Lakeside Drive in the Lake Collins community north of Portal was caused by stray sparks from a burn barrel that people thought had burned out, he said.

Ivey warned residents to be careful with fire, and to make sure they obtain a burn permit.

“Make sure your water hose reaches (the area where you set the fire) and be committed to babysit the fire, making sure it goes out or is put out completely,” he said. “So many times, it is hot, and people go inside to cool off (leaving the fire burning) and it spreads quickly out of control in minutes.”

In order to obtain a burn permit, call the Georgia Forestry Commission Burn Permit line at 1-877-OK2-BURN or get an online permit at

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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