Seminole County Pumps Up Crop Yields
Sunday, July 31st, 2011
Thanks to the abundant Floridan aquifer and widespread irrigation, farmers in Seminole County expect good returns on this year’s corn, peanut and cotton crops. Approximately 75 percent of cultivated acreage in Seminole County is irrigated, according to Seminole County Extension Coordinator Rome Ethredge. Despite this year’s record drought, water from the Floridan aquifer is still plentiful, which has enabled Seminole County farmers to realize good yields.
“I’ve heard reports of 200 bushel-per-acre yields for field corn. It’s been an expensive crop with all the water farmers have had to pump but hopefully we’ll see a good return on corn this year,” Ethredge said.
“Markets look good on all our crops. It’s a good year with the potential for good farm income and that’s incredibly important to rural counties like Seminole.”
Small in size, big in irrigation
While small in square miles, Seminole County produced $67.3 million in farm gate value in 2009, mostly in corn, peanuts and cotton. On that measure, Seminole ranked 56 out of the 159 counties in Georgia. According to Ethredge, Seminole is the third most irrigated county in the state.
“Many farmers across the state have irrigation systems that draw out of ponds or water wells that are running dry. We don’t have that problem here because Seminole County sits on a thick cross-section of the Floridan aquifer,” Ethredge explained.
“We had water levels as low as we have them now 2 other times recently. In August of 2007 our levels got down to 47 1/2 feet and in September of 2000 we saw 46 1/2 feet and a few days ago we saw groundwater levels of 46.4 feet but we’re seeing the levels rise over the past few days a little. Normal water level is 35 feet this time of year. We’re fortunate to live where the groundwater levels always recharge after sustained rainfall, especially if we also get some north of us.”
Seminole County farmers continue to work together to gain greater control through vertical integration. Local cotton farmers opened Cloverleaf Gin, a mainly farmer-owned cotton gin and storage operation, many years ago.
More recently, peanut growers established American Peanut Growers Group (APGG) to sell shelled peanuts directly to buyers. Owned by farmers, APGG offers storage, processing in a state-of-the-art shelling facility and cold storage for processed nuts; and it sells directly to buyers.
“It’s been very successful in that it allows farmers to seek markets and set prices for higher quality irrigated peanuts,” Ethredge continued.
In addition, many corn farmers recently added new storage facilities, which along with drying facilities enable them to harvest green corn and store it onsite until market prices are at acceptable levels.
Linking rural communities to UGA
Extension coordinators such as Ethredge connect communities across Georgia to the UGA Cooperative Extension. Ethredge cites on-farm research as one of the major extension programs benefitting farmers.
“We have research under way on hybrids for corn as well as fungicides and nematicides,” he said.
County agents also oversee the Georgia 4-H program that provides education and leadership training for youth through programs such as ag awareness, public speaking, livestock and others.
Three months ago, Ethredge began blogging on breaking news and the latest information from UGA at Seminole Crop E News. Previously, communications came through an email newsletter.
“The feedback on the blog has been very positive and our weekly numbers of visitors to the blog are good.”
You can find the Seminole Crop E News blog at seminolecropnews.wordpress.com. For more information on Seminole County Extension activities, visit www.ugaextension.com/seminole or contact Rome Ethredge at email@example.com.