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April 06, 2007   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
April 06, 2007

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama farmers are bracing for a cold front that could dash early hopes of a good crop of peaches, wheat and corn. Weather forecasters predict Easter weekend temperatures will drop into the upper to mid 20s across central and northern counties.

Brian Glenn, chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation's State Wheat and Feed Grains Committee, said he and other farmers throughout the state are hoping weather forecasters are wrong.

"With my wheat crop, I'm preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," said Glenn who has 700 acres of wheat and 640 acres of corn planted on his farm in Lawrence County. "If it gets as cold as they are predicting, I don't see how our wheat crop has a chance."

The freezing temperatures couldn't be coming at a worse time. Peaches are setting fruit, and the wheat crop, which was planted last fall, is reaching maturity and would be ready to harvest in about eight weeks. There are 130,000 acres of wheat planted in Alabama, a 30 percent increase over last year. Planting intentions for corn show Alabama farmers will plant 50 percent more acres than last year at 300,000 acres. In most areas, corn stalks are about six inches high.

"Corn could be damaged, but it has a chance to bounce back even if the temperatures drop into the 20s," Glenn said. "But our wheat crop couldn't be more vulnerable."

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks is spearheading efforts for the possible deployment of helicopters to lessen the freeze damage on peaches. With peaches at their current growth stage, if temperatures remain below freezing for two hours, the peach crop would suffer severe damage. If temperatures remain below freezing for four hours, the entire peach crop, with an estimated value of $3-5 million, would be lost.

"It will probably take about a week after the freeze occurs to really determine the extent of the damage to wheat and corn," Glenn said. "We'll have to work with insurance adjusters to determine as quickly as possible if the crops can be saved or if there is enough time to plant another crop like soybeans or corn. The bad thing about the wheat is that we've already paid all the input costs into the crop."

However, with record corn planting across the country, corn seed is in short supply and that could further hamper farmers' hopes of planting a follow-up crop, Glenn said.

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