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Georges Causes Harvest Panic, Devastates Some
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most cotton and soybean farmers relaxed as Hurricane Georges hung a hard right after landfall, but for Southeast Mississippi growers, the results were devastating.
Dr. Alan Blaine, agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said growers across the state with fields almost ready for harvest were working around the clock to avoid the predicted heavy winds and rain.
"The amount and intensity that was predicted would have been the final nail in the coffin for much of the soybean crop," Blaine said. "For most soybean and cotton growers, if it hasn't rained by this point in the season, they would prefer not seeing any until after harvest."
Blaine said most of the rain was to the southeast below a line from Jackson to Meridian. While only a small percentage of Mississippi's row crops were affected, those fields were devastated.
George County agricultural agent Kerry Johnson reported heavy damage to 4,000 acres of cotton. County Agent Mark Gillie in neighboring Greene County reported 80 percent losses to cotton.
"We were fortunate to harvest some cotton the week before the hurricane. What's left will be very difficult to harvest," Gillie said.
Across the state, South Delta growers braced for the worst that never came.
"Because of the time delay between defoliation and harvest, there was little way to speed up the process," said Tim Pepper, Yazoo County agent. "Producers were anxious to harvest all crops that were ready and worked well into the night."
Sharkey County agent John Coccaro said growers may have picked some fields a few days earlier than planned, but suffered no losses from the frantic harvest. Some growers returned for a second picking on fields that were picked early. Overall, Coccaro said growers should complete the 1998 harvest about two weeks earlier than normal.
"Yields have been near Sharkey County's five-year average of 806 pounds an acre and the quality has been good," Coccaro said. "That means a hurricane would have caused significant losses to growers. We're definitely feeling lucky."