By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Georgia cotton makes surprising comeback after near disaster
Cotton 6
In this file photo, a worker helps bale cotton in one of Bulloch County's many cotton fields. Georgia cotton farmers were fearful of a bad crop after the summer started hot and dry, but August rains have created a bumper crop in many areas of the state. - photo by Herald File
    ALBANY, Ga. — Georgia cotton growers braced for a disaster during the hot, dry weeks of June and July, but the crop rebounded in August thanks to some generous rainfall and now is expected to produce some surprisingly good yields.
    ‘‘It’s considerably better than we expected,’’ said Lee Ann Green, wife of a Dooly County cotton farmer. ‘‘There are some people who did not come out as well as we did, but as for us, personally, we are blessed.’’
    Her husband, Eddie Green, said dryland cotton that seemed like a lost cause in July has revived and is producing ‘‘respectable’’ yields.
    ‘‘There was a disaster in the making and depending on where you were, some people still have a pretty serious situation,’’ said Green, whose family grows 1,720 acres of cotton.
    With the eradication of the dreaded boll weevil, cotton has become Georgia’s top row crop — surpassing peanuts in the 1990s. The state produces $500 million to $700 million annually, depending on the market.
    Steven Brown, the University of Georgia’s cotton specialist, said he had expected the heat and drought to reduce average yields to about 500 pounds — barely enough to make one 480-pound bale on a single acre of land.
    So he was elated over the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture crop estimate released Monday.
    ‘‘If the USDA is right we’re going to make a respectable crop,’’ Brown said.
    The report says Georgia growers should average 765 pounds per acre, 97 pounds more than the department’s November estimate.
    The 765-pound-average would be 85 pounds less than the record 850 pounds growers achieved last year, but 51 pounds more than their five-year average of 714 pounds.
    ‘‘We felt like we were on the verge of a disaster,’’ Brown said. ‘‘In midsummer, it was very, very depressing. It’s good to be better than we thought.’’
    Cotton is grown across the nation’s Southern tier from Virginia and the Carolinas to California.
    Texas, traditionally the nation’s largest cotton state, is expected to produce 5.7 million bales this year, followed by Arkansas with nearly 2.6 million bales, Mississippi with 2.15 million bales and Georgia with 2.12 million bales.
    ‘‘We knew our numbers had been improving, but we never believed they would get close to 2 million bales,’’ Brown said.
    Alabama’s yield estimate remained at 538 pounds for November and December, leaving that state with a 600,000-bale crop, 248,000 less than last year.
    ‘‘They were bad and didn’t improve,’’ Brown said. ‘‘We bounced back for whatever reason. They did not.’’
    Florida’s yield estimate increased from 646 pounds in November to 692 pounds, giving the state a 150,000-bale crop, 15,000 bales more than in 2005.
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter