This winter’s warm and wet weather has many people talking, but one group not singing the praises of the unseasonably warm and wet weather are southern ag producers. Growers in Georgia have a whole host of complaints against the El Niño weather pattern that has brought rain and warm temperatures to the southeast. Unfortunately, the abnormal weather has disrupted the cold weather cycle that so many of Georgia’s ag products need in order to grow and flourish.
Over-saturated soils can wreak havoc on blueberry bushes, but the main concern is with chill hours, or rather, the lack of them. Blueberry plants need a minimum number of chill hours— hours under 45 degrees Fahrenheit— to produce summer berries, and many growers estimate that the bushes have not gotten half or even a third of the required hours by January. In fact, warm weather in December pushed some plants into blooming, and each following cold snap threatens to freeze the berries on the branch. Blueberry harvests this year could produce substantially lower yields.
In addition to the potential for disease to the tree due to soggy soil, peaches also need a minimum number of chill hours, and they haven’t gotten them. Since many varieties in Georgia need a minimum of 700 to 1,000 chill hours, it’s doubtful whether they will reach even their minimum number of required hours, especially since some believe warm weather negates chill hours already in the bank. Peach harvests this year may be lessened as well.
Pecan harvests were affected by the warm, wet weather in December as well. The rotting of mature nuts before they could be harvested was seen across the state. However, the damage was not as extensive as originally feared. Similarly, while walnuts do require a minimum number of chill hours, they are typically harvested in September, so it’s unclear if Georgia’s walnut trees grown for harvesting rather than timber have been affected by the warm weather. More than likely, the high amounts of rainfall are the most damaging, as walnuts prefer well-drained soil . . . Only time will tell.
AgAmerica Lending understands the ups and downs of agriculture, unlike other so-called “land loan specialists.” We’re here in good weather and bad, helping the country’s farmers and ranchers to grow and succeed in all conditions using our low interest rates, long amortizations, and outstanding 10-year line of credit.