Good weather equals good yields
By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
With the days left in November dwindling rapidly, the harvest, too, is moving toward its conclusion. According to the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service, the cotton harvest is 77 percent complete. Alabama farmers planted 560,000 acres of cotton this year and harvest of 510,000 acres is expected.
Statewide yields are estimated at 772 pounds of lint per acre. The average over the last 10 years is 542 pounds lint per acre, and this year's average is almost 200 pounds higher than last year's average.
"The market is up," said Buck Farrior, extension coordinator for Escambia County. "But the net to the farmer isn't that different because of the government price programs."
Farrior said that overall, most producers feel good about the harvest season.
"It is certainly better than last year, " Farrior said. "There were some that had trouble with low-lying areas and damage, but it has been a good harvest season and they are a lot more satisfied. More people are pleased with the harvest season."
And while cotton is big business in the area's economy, peanuts are making inroads on local growers.
Statewide, peanuts averaged 2,900 pounds per acre, 783 pounds more than the 10 year average for the state, and 850 pounds higher than last year's average. The harvest for goobers is nearing completion, too.
"The crop has done very well," Farrior said. "The crop got out of the field well. It was a source of anxiety, with all the acreage running through three newly built buying points, but there were no bottlenecks."
Pricing for the peanuts is a little more complex than for cotton, because of government programs, but they are averaging about $380 per ton.
"Most people are comfortable with the harvest," said Steve Brown, an extension economist, "but there are still some fields still out there."
Soybeans were averaging 34 bushels per acre, five bushels higher than the 10 year average, and prices were running about $1.80 more per bushel than last year. The crop was estimated at about 155,000 acres.
There are not many producers in Escambia County that grow soybeans, but some were forced into using the crop because they lost the window of opportunity for cotton.
"Soybeans became a second choice when it got too late to plant cotton," Farrior said. "The crop may have been late."
Soybeans have fallen out of favor in recent years, though.
"I can't imagine it was a bad year for beans, but they've been displaced by cotton and peanuts in rotation, because they work well together in rotation," Farrior said.
That rotation works because the nematodes that afflict one crop are not able to feed on the other. Additionally, the market risks are different.
Of the major crops that farmers raise in the area, corn had perhaps the best.
Of the major crops that farmers raise in the area, corn had perhaps the best year as far as yields are concerned.
Statewide, the corn crop averaged 115 bushels per acre, a record high. Prices were about 40 cents per bushel lower than last year.
As with soybeans, there is not a large amount of corn grown in the county, but what there was followed the high yield trend.
"There were some very good yields," Farrior said. He knew of one field that had 150 bushels per acre. The crop is about 97 percent harvested, some 210,000 acres.
The agricultural service credits the good harvest to good weather during the growing season.