first_imgThe rain also helped refill many farm ponds and branches that supply water to Georgiacattle herds.Extension horticulturist Gerard Krewer said therain couldn’t have come at a better time for next year’s blueberry crop. The bushes aresetting fruit buds now, he said, and their water need was critical.Earl wasn’t as kind, though, to crops higher above the ground. Pecan trees werehard-hit.”We’ve seen orchards where as many as 200 trees were blown down,” said Tom Crocker, an extension pecan horticulturist.”Cyclonic winds that spun off Earl damaged trees and knocked off a lot ofpecans.”The worst effect on pecans was that the winds came after the rain. Up to 8 inches ofrain saturated and softened the soil in pecan orchards. That made the trees morevulnerable to the 60 mph winds that came after the skies had cleared.”A lot of us breathed a sigh of relief a bit too early,” Crocker said.”The wind really caught us off guard, although there was nothing we could have doneto prevent the wind damage.”Crocker said so far, pecan farmers from Lee, Houston, Sumter and Ben Hill countiesreport the most damage. “But we’re not certain yet how that damage will affect thecrop this year,” he said. Left-click to download the 5.71M .jpg image. Right-click to download the thumbnail .gif image HURRICANE EARL hit pecan trees after the rains swept across the state. Cyclonic winds damaged trees by breaking limbs and knocking off nuts. One farmer reported 200 trees down in his orchards. (Photo courtesy the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)center_img University of Georgia scientists said the rainHurricane Earl dropped across the state provided desperately needed water to Georgiacrops. But we could have done without the wind.The wind hit Georgia cotton hard, said Steve Brown,an Extension Service agronomist withthe UGA College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.”We’ve seen fields with 40 to 50 pounds — maybe up to 75 pounds — of the lint onthe ground,” Brown said. Rain saturated the cotton and made it fall more easily whenthe wind hit it.Fortunately, most of the crop was not yet defoliated. “Since the leaves were stillon plants in so many fields,” Brown said, “they protected the lint from gettingblown off.”Brown said the ’98 crop is ahead of usual. Hot weather has made bolls mature faster,”so there’s a bit more ready than usual at this time. Earl provided rain we needed inlate-planted nonirrigated fields that were getting mighty dry.”UGA peanut scientist  John Baldwin said muchthe same thing: fields were getting dry. The rain was “a little late for a lot of thecrop,” Baldwin said. “But it’s almost always welcome.”Hot, dry weather made peanuts mature faster, too, he said. Some farmers had already dugsome fields in preparation for harvesting.”Now, with another system brewing (in the Gulf of Mexico), farmers are makingplans to make sure they can get their peanuts out of the field without quality loss,”he said.The rains, though, will help finish out a lot of Georgia’s peanuts. “The weatherfrom now through the beginning of October will make or break our peanuts this year,”Baldwin said. Many Georgia farmers still have 1997 fresh on their minds. It started raining last yearin mid-September and didn’t stop long enough to harvest until April.”They remember that clearly,” Baldwin said. “And they’re making harvestplans with that possibility in mind.”The experts say Earl was good for cattle farmers, too. “Our pastures were verydry,” said Robert Stewart, an Extension Serviceanimal scientist. “This rain will allow many of our farmers to make another cuttingof hay, which almost all of them are short on.”last_img

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