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Cotton grades up, down

The heavy rains that swept through Mid-South cotton fields in early October are beginning to show up in lower grades from USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service Cotton Classing offices.

While most fields have dried out and farmers are moving closer to wrapping up harvest, the flooding that occurred in some fields and cotton ginning yards is beginning to take its toll on cotton grades at the Dumas, Ark., classing office.

“The harvest is now going well and the cotton pipeline seems fully loaded,” says director Larry Creed.

There have been a few snags, though. Creed and colleagues are beginning to see the quality of cotton in some modules grade out very low. It's odd because in some modules, “we're seeing high grades as well as low grades. It's a weird mix.”

“Our thinking is that when we get to the module bottoms, the muddy cotton comes into play and the top half is where the good, bright cotton is. We attribute that to modules sitting in low spots when the latest rains came through. The module wicked up a lot of water, and we're seeing the effects of that now.

“Our understanding is that many gins are having a fit trying to get some of this poorer cotton through their operations.”

The color of recent cotton has dropped off some as well.

“We had a rain come through the last full week of October,” says Creed. “For the first time this season, we're worried about color. Our predominant grade has been running right at 31 all season. Recently, we had a grade of 42. That was the biggest grade by 0.1 percent.”

Creed said 28.7 percent of the cotton is around 31 and 28.8 percent is at 42. “That means we've still got a bright crop because we're still running 70 percent white. That's down from our earlier mark of 83 percent and it's bothersome, but not devastating.”

Staple length is getting a bit better, says Creed. “At 34.7, we're averaging near 35, which is still a little below what we want. But we are doing better than we were earlier in the season.”

At the Dumas office, micronaire counts are still running high at an average of 4.8. Strength is running lower than normal at 27.

“I'm hearing all kinds of stories about yields. Some areas — particularly around the Helena area — are getting some very nice yields. The further south one travels, the worse the yields seem to be. Quite a bit of yield was lost from the Labor Day rains and ensuing boll rot and hard locking.”

How do the Dumas numbers line up with other Delta classing offices? As of Oct. 29, the classing office in Rayville, La., was averaging a staple of 34.1 and Memphis was at 35. The mike counts at the Memphis office was 4.7 and Rayville was at 4.9. On strength, Memphis was at 28.4 and Rayville was at 27.0.

“Our numbers are sandwiched between the other classing offices' numbers, and that's what you'd expect.”

Creed talked to three ginners who told him they expected to be finished ginning cotton by the end of the week of Oct. 29. So far, they're the only ones lining up for a normal ginning season, says Creed.

“The rest of the territory seems way behind. In looking at records, we normally go to one shift in early to mid-November. This year, if things play out as we suspect, I think we'll be running three shifts up until Thanksgiving. The rains got harvest off to a late start plus the crop is simply bigger than it's been in a while.”

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