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Hurricane Idalia Could Pummel Georgia’s Cotton Crop

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Hurricane Idalia, bearing down on Florida’s Big Bend region, is forecasted to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds to a wide swath of the southeastern US. 

The track of the storm, due to make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Wednesday, isn’t expected to hit the central citrus growing region in Florida. However, the storm poses a serious threat to Georgia’s cotton crop. 

Last year, Hurricane Ian dealt a major blow to Florida's struggling citrus industry.

Excessive heat already decimated cotton production in Texas, the No. 1 cotton-producing state in the US, for a second consecutive year, as Gro highlighted here. Further losses out of Georgia could push US cotton ending stocks to their lowest levels in nearly a decade. 

The US is the world’s third-largest cotton producer and its top exporter. This Gro display shows where the crop is grown in the southeastern part of the country. Much of the region along the East Coast is directly in Hurricane Idalia’s predicted path.

Georgia, the second-largest cotton-producing state, accounts for roughly 15% of US cotton production. While its planted cotton area pales in comparison to Texas’ cotton acreage, Georgia has historically produced a much higher-yielding crop, as seen in this Gro display.

This season, however, Georgia is likely to see a reduction in yield and crop quality. As of Sunday, the boll-opening process in the state was 21% complete, placing about a quarter of Georgia’s crop at risk for significant wind and rain damage. 

The GFS forecast through August 31 shows Idalia pummeling Georgia’s cotton-growing areas, with upwards of seven inches of rain in some locations. Heavy precipitation on opened cotton bolls damages plant fibers and contributes to lint loss.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 to November 30. El Niño years typically bring fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic during the peak of the season. However, this year, NOAA forecasters with the US Climate Prediction Center predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season due to factors including abnormally high ocean temperatures.

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