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Cotton: early-planted may lose yield

Estimated yield losses for Arkansas cotton are growing each day rain continues to fall, Tom Barber, Extension cotton agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said Thursday.

“As one farmer said yesterday: ‘The rain that gave us this crop is steadily taking it away,’” Barber said.

Damage to the cotton crop hinges on the amount of rain over the last few weeks and its growth stage. Some fields have received barely an inch and some 10-12 inches. Approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of the crop got into the ground during the early part of the planting window from April 15-May 1. The rest was late planted.

“This cotton is showing the most damage from the rainfall and high humidity with seeds germinating in the boll and hardlocked bolls,” he said. “The damage is greater in this early crop because the bolls were either open or cracking when the majority of the rain hit.

“Bolls that have seeds germinating will have reduced fiber quality, weight and little to no viable seed,” Barber said. “In this early crop, many fields will see at least 30 percent yield loss, some higher, some lower.

“The middle and late crop looks better because it is just starting to open up, but we are losing at least 10 percent from boll rot,” he said. “The late crop was going to be lower yielding anyway so we didn’t need any more reduction.”

Barber said if the rain continues through the weekend, there may be only a “top crop” left to pick — those bolls remaining on the upper portion of the plant.

The National Weather Service offices at North Little Rock and Memphis, Tenn., were both forecasting at least a 20 percent chance of rain through Saturday, but said drier weather was expected starting Sunday.

Last year there were 620,000 acres of cotton, planted for both seed and fiber, in Arkansas. This year, the acreage was down to 520,000, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Production in Arkansas was worth about $349 million. Arkansas is the nation’s No. 3 cotton growing state.

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