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Cotton farmers deserved a break but didn't get it

TAGS: Weather
Brad Haire brad-haire-farm-press-cotton-harvest-2020-a.jpg
North Carolina's cotton crops is late with yields expected to be down.
North Carolina State University agronomist Guy Collins notes that 2020 was the worst planting season he can remember.

In a 1971 television commercial, McDonald’s debuted its catchy advertising slogan “You deserve a break today.” The advertising was successful in the 1970s and 1980s, convincing consumers to take a break with their families and grab a quick meal.

Like those McDonald’s customers back in the 1970s and 1980s, North Carolina cotton farmers deserve a break after a particularly challenging 2020. The pandemic slammed demand for cotton products, which hampered prices while. It has also been among the most challenging weather year many cotton farmers have ever seen.

North Carolina State University agronomist Guy Collins notes that 2020 was the worst planting season he can remember. “It’s not uncommon for us to deal with a few cool/wet spells during planting, but this year, it lasted essentially throughout the entire planting season. Not surprisingly, this affected our acreage and many growers took prevented planting, which shifted several formerly cotton acres to beans, and many cotton fields were replanted to beans due to poor stands,” Collins told Southeast Farm Press.

“Cotton began growing normally in June, but extremely hot and dry conditions throughout July drastically reduced yield potential. This hit dryland cotton particularly hard. August brought badly needed rains which developed a good boll load, albeit a late crop. We were optimistic at around Labor Day, and we hoped for a warm sunny fall. Sadly, September and the early half of October brought cooler than normal weather, when this crop badly needed heat units,” Collins said.

The weather did improve in the latter half of October which gave North Carolina cotton the heat units it needed to defoliate and open bolls. Still, this year’s crop is late with yields expected to be down.

North Carolina State Extension Cotton Specialist Keith Edmisten says the problem for many growers is that drought in July and August caused a lot of fruit shed and cooler weather in September made it harder to mature a top crop.

“There is a lot of variability out there, with the best cotton being pretty good, but not a home run. There is also a lot of really low yielding cotton in areas where the drought was the worst. It will be interesting to see how different varieties held up to the drought conditions during mid-bloom,” Edmisten noted in an email.

Both Collins and Edmisten said 2020 is one year everyone wants to get behind us. With no two crop years being the same, 2021 really needs to be a banner year for North Carolina cotton, with improving prices and cooperative weather and a bumper crop of high-quality seed and fiber.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For what it's worth,“You Deserve a Break Today” was named the top jingle of the 20th century by Advertising Age magazine.

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