( National Hurricane Center )

Preliminary losses to Georgia’s fall vegetable crops from Hurricane Michael have been estimated at $230 to $300 million by agricultural specialists at the University of Georgia. 

In a vegetable report authored by Tim Coolong, Andre Da Silva, Bhabesh Dutta, and Greg Fonsah and posted Oct. 12, agricultural officials said that damage to the fall vegetable industry caused by Hurricane Michael was significant for growers in southwest Georgia.

“It must be stressed that we are still evaluating fields and some of these numbers may change as we gather more information,” the report said. “Due to the widespread nature of the power outages growers may not have functioning coolers or irrigation pumps, which means that secondary losses due to inability to cool and pack harvested product or to irrigate crops in the fields may climb.”

In addition, the report said disease pressure will increase on crops due to the rain and damage that plants may have received from the Oct. 10-11 storm.

Very few vegetable crops in the direct path of the storm will be able to be salvaged, said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association. Hall said the association is working to determine what type of disaster relief aid may be available for growers.

Crop insurance for specialty crops is virtually non-existent, he said.

Loss estimates range from 30% to 60% of fall vegetable crops on farms in the regions, with some growers experiencing 100% losses of certain crops, according to the University of Georgia report.

Damage closely followed the path of the storm, with a line stretching from Seminole and Decatur counties up through Mitchell and Grady, Colquitt, Tift and even reaching fields in the Crisp county region. 

 Vegetable production regions near Lowndes and Echols Counties may have some loss but are expected to have escaped the worst of the damage. 

Some specific crop observations in the University of Georgia report were:

  • Fruiting vegetables such as bell peppers, at or very close to harvest, have suffered enough damage to foliage that sunburn will quickly damage the crop;
  • Tomatoes, trellised cucumbers, and eggplants were all also severely damaged;
  • Squash and zucchini crops saw near complete destruction in some areas while others seemed to fare better; and 
  • Fall sweet corn, which is planted heavily in the most affected regions of southwest Georgia may be a complete loss in some counties.