Crops bounce back in 2008

Published 7:49 pm Saturday, January 17, 2009

Alabama’s peach crop more than tripled its production from 2007 to 2008, the state Department of Agriculture and Industries reported last week.

The total yield for 2007 was approximately 3,000 tons, while the yield for 2008 increased to an estimated 10,000 tons.

Jim Pitts, superintendent of the Chilton Research and Extension Center, indicated those statistics were reflected heavily in Chilton County.

“In 2007 the Easter freeze [killed] between 40 and 60 percent of the crop. On top of that, it was dry and hot. That reduced the size of the crop,” Pitts said.

Because the freeze affected both the size of individual fruits and the crop as a whole, its impact was great — especially considering that when peaches are sold in bulk, they are sold by volume rather than by pound, Pitts explained.

“That really knocks it down,” he said.

But while 2007 contained just about every disaster feared by fruit producers, 2008 was one of the best years for many.

The county had better rainfall north of Highway 22, although growers in the Fairview area reported a lack of rain in 2008. Peaches need access to water within the top 12 inches of the ground to be fully effective, Pitts said.

“Last year was as fine of a fruit year as I’ve seen in a long time, at least from this standpoint up here,” he said.

Other crop totals for 2008

The 2008 crop season was better than expected for producers across many areas of the state. Early spring planting was delayed in several northern locations because of cool temperatures and wet fields. Timely rainfall and mild weather throughout much of the growing season produced record yields for cotton, peanuts and winter wheat.

Total hay stocks for Dec. 1 increased to 1.54 million tons, up 222,000 tons from December a year ago.

Hay yield increase to 2.2 tons per acre, up from 1.8 tons per acre in 2007. Hay production totaled 1.98 million tons of hay from 900,000 harvested acres, an increase of 60,000 acres from the previous year.

Corn acreage fell to 260,000 planted acres, a decrease of 80,000 acres from 2007. Producers harvested 235,000 acres for grain, with a yield of 104 bushels per acre. Total grain production grew from 21.8 million bushels of corn in 2007 to 24.4 million bushels in 2008.

Cotton production was estimated at 500,000 bales from 287,000 harvested acres. Alabama set a record cotton yield with 836 pounds of lint produced per acre, up 317 pounds per acre from last year and 41 pounds per acre above the previous record set in 1985.

The state’s peanut yield was at a record high also, with 3,300 pounds of nuts produced per acre, up 750 pounds per acre from the previous year. Farmers harvested 193,000 acres, and produced 636.9 million pounds of peanuts in 2008.

Soybean production totaled 12.3 million bushels from 350,000 harvested acres, an increase of 8.37 million bushels and 165,000 acres from the previous year. Yield was estimated at 35 bushels per acre, just 1 bushel below the record set in 2003.

Irish potato growers produced 204,000 cwt of potatoes this year, up 50,000 cwt from 2007.

Sweet potato production totaled 438,000 cwt, an increase of 162,000 cwt from a year ago.

Winter wheat seedlings for the 2009 crop season were estimated at 240,000 acres, unchanged from 2008.

– Scott Mims can be reached at