Despite the drought and recent cold weather,Georgia’s peanut crop will be better than expected, but statecotton yields and quality struggle through another discouragingyear, say University of Georgia experts.Cooler Weather Stops Peanuts A cold snap last week threatened the state’s peanut crop. Whentemperatures fall into the 40’s at night and remain cool duringthe day, the peanut plant shuts down, postponing maturity. Farmersthat checked the maturity level of peanuts before the cool weatherwill need to factor in the cool days. The state will most likely not receive enough warm weather torecharge maturity, said John Beasley, a University of GeorgiaExtension peanut agronomist. Farmers shouldn’t dig peanuts ifa freeze is forecast for the next day.The peanuts are around 40 percent water when dug. A freeze coulddamage the kernel inside the shell, destroying quality and reducingthe farmer’s profits. Low land areas in the northern part of thestate’s peanut belt are at a greater risk than south Georgia peanutfields.According to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service, stateyields are forecast to average 2,500 per acre. “It seems reasonable that growers can reach this forecast,”Beasley said. “Overall, the crop is looking fair right now.”Yield potential will depend greatly on the availability of waterthroughout the season, he said. Earlier this season, considering the drought, disease and insectpressure, the forecast seemed ambitious. However, growers havecombated adverse conditions with specific management practices– but not without paying the cost. Beasley says early season peanut quality is higher than expected.The quality of the $430 million crop usually increases as theseason progresses, peaking right before the end of digging. Consistentquality early is a plus for growers.A recent 10-day stretch of harvest-friendly weather invigorateda harvest that began sluggishly.”We made a tremendous amount of progress last week and theweek before,” Beasley said. “We’re going well past thehalfway point of getting this crop in. Next week we should havea high percentage harvested as farmers hustle to get everythingout of the field.”Cotton farmers, however, are faced with less pleasant news.Cotton Farmers Face Low Yields, PoorQuality According to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service, about20 percent of the cotton crop was harvested as of Oct. 8.Until this point, the cotton has been of poor quality, said SteveBrown, a University of Georgia Extension cotton agronomist.Due to extreme high temperatures this season, the cotton cropwas ready to harvest at least two weeks early. Half the crop wasready for defoliation by mid-September, and as a result, the rainsduring the first three weeks of the month significantly reduced lintquality of the harvested cotton.In addition to the low quality problems, cotton yields are down.So far, irrigated cotton is producing about 800-900 pounds peracre, about 300 pounds below normal. Low yields can be blamed on the summer heat and late season’sboll rot. The state’s five-year average is 650 pounds per acre,but Brown said the average this year will most likely be around600 pounds per acre.”There is a lot of 400-pound dryland cotton out there,”Brown said. “and many acres may pick only a half a bale.”The third consecutive year of low rainfall forced farmers to abandon200,000 acres of cotton this year. “This will be our fourthbad crop in a row,” Brown said.Recent cool weather has toughened the plants that remain to beharvested. As warm weather returns to the area, there is hope yields and quality will improve as harvest pushesforward, Brown said.