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Georgia growers hit with heavy rains and cold temperatures

by Christina DiMartino | April 30, 2009
Growers in some parts of Georgia took a heavy hit with rain in the past month. In some areas of the state, as much as 25 inches fell in about a one- week period. Several cold fronts passed over the state during the same period, compounding crop issues for producers.

"We won't know the full extent of the crop damage for a while," Calvert Cullen, co-owner of Northampton Growers, headquartered in Cheriton, VA, told The Produce News the last week in April. "It will be a progressive assessment because of the shock aspect."

Mr. Cullen was referring to the effects that the changing temperatures and heavy rains had on plants.

"Total acreage loss predictions are from 10 to 30 -- or even 40 percent -- depending on the crop and the area it is in," said Mr. Cullen. "The biggest problem we're seeing now is that crops like cabbage have black rot from all the rain. As new plantings come on, we'll hopefully outgrow the problem, but we can only hope that's the case. Cabbage harvests typically start on April 15, but we're starting today," he told The Produce News April 30. "We're exactly two weeks behind schedule."

Mr. Cullen added that peppers were also strongly affected by the weather conditions. Northampton Growers typically starts harvesting peppers around May 20 in Georgia.

"We are still shooting for May 20 on peppers," he said. "But there are disease issues related to this crop also. The rain washed out the fertilizers, so we had to go back and refertilize. We are assessing conditions as is possible."

King Farms LLC, headquartered in Naples, FL, has an office in Lake Park, GA. Steve Oldock, managing owner, said that its growing region in Georgia is about a 45-minute drive south of where the heaviest rains fell.

"The Moultrie, Tifton and surrounding areas of Georgia took the worst of the rainfall," said Mr. Oldock. "We had spurts of rain, but they got it all at one time. If you are on high land, you were likely spared somewhat."

King Farms was harvesting zucchini in Georgia at the end of April, which is earlier than usual. Mr. Oldock said that the crop is in good shape.

"We also have a huge cantaloupe crop in Georgia, and it came through like a champ," he said. "But if the crop had been planted 45 minutes north of where it is, we probably would not have come through. Other producers in our area are also reporting minimal or no damage."

Mr. Oldock said that producers in the northern areas of the state are citing late movements of 10 days to two weeks. But growers in the southern areas said that crops are in good shape and are running on time.

"Everyone in our area was harvesting something or other on April 29," he concluded.