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Cotton: a lot on the ground

Cotton losses due to record rainfall during September and October in Mississippi totaled $71 million by early November, or nearly half the value of the expected crop, according to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce.

Cottonseed losses of $19 million represent nearly 46 percent of the value of the expected supply.

The total value of all crops lost in Mississippi is approximately $485 million.

In early November, cotton pickers in Mississippi and other Mid-South states were starting to roll through cotton fields during a rare break in the weather, and providing some clues as to the extent of yield and quality losses due to weathering and flooding.


In Arkansas, Tom Barber, Extension cotton specialist, said in early November that a few farmers were picking cotton on the sandier soils on the break in the rainy weather. “By Wednesday (Nov. 4) we’ll be rolling full force.

“It’s been pretty tough,” Barber said. “We had a tremendous rainfall last week. The water is still on a lot of these fields. We’re trying to pump the water off, but it has nowhere to go.”

The cotton crop is not holding up very well at this time, according to Barber. “I think we’ll pick more cotton in northeast Arkansas than other places. Yields won’t be where they were last year there, but they may be decent.

“On average, we’re leaving about 300 pounds on the ground, and more than that in some places. We’ll be lucky to average 800 pounds in Arkansas, which is way off our average.

“If you put a dot on Greenville, Miss., cotton with a 100-mile radius isn’t looking too sporty. I’m hearing where some farmers are only picking 500 pounds to 600 pounds. It’s really been bad in southeast Arkansas. I don’t know what those farmers will do. Some of them might not be farming next year.”

Twenty percent, if not more, of the Arkansas cotton crop is still trying to open, according to Barber. “It’s been one of those years. Some of our cotton is getting a third shot of defoliant. These bolls just aren’t wanting to open. We aren’t getting the heat units we need to mature the crop on out the top.”


Mike Milam, cotton agronomy specialist for Dunklin and Pemiscot counties in the Missouri Bootheel, says cotton harvest was about to get rolling again in early November after yet another solid week of rain in late October.

“I saw a flooded cotton field yesterday and the bottom bolls were hanging down into the water. Even the good cotton is being weathered out there. We’re about a month late.”

A frost that hit the region pretty much stopped the maturity of the portion of the crop that was late-planted and will affect boll opening as well. “It’s just not a good situation at all.”

Missouri records show October was the wettest in 68 years and the second wettest in history.


Chris Main, Tennessee Extension cotton specialist, says west Tennessee cotton producers were starting to pick cotton in early November. “I’ve heard cotton yields ranging from 800 pounds to 1,300 pounds of lint. We’re leaving a lot of cotton on ground with hard lock, boll rot and rain out.”

Anything planted after May 20 “still needs some maturing,” Main said. “That’s about 40 percent to 45 percent of our crop. There’s a ways to go, but if we can keep the sunshine going for the rest of this week, it will really help us out.”

Main says losses in the cotton crop will likely range from 200 pounds to a bale of cotton. “It’s ugly. In places, we’re cutting ruts, and it’s going to be a big year for tillage. The farmers along the river not protected by a levee are rushing to get crops out because the river is rising. It could be under before week’s end if any more rain falls.”

A few gins have started up, according to Main, “but nobody is up to capacity.”


In Louisiana, rainfall totals at 10 locations ranged from 9 inches to 28 inches with an average of nearly 17 inches of rain falling since Sept. 1. “Rains essentially occurring every other day have severely limited normal harvest,” said Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter agricultural economist.

USDA reported that by the week ending Nov. 1, only 28 percent of the U.S. cotton crop had been harvested, compared to a five-year average of 50 percent. The worst delays are in the Mid-South. Arkansas had harvested only 19 percent of its crop as of Nov. 1, compared a five-year average of 83 percent, while in Louisiana, 34 percent of the crop had been harvested compared to a five -year average of 94 percent. In Mississippi, 14 percent is harvested, compared to 90 percent on average. In Missouri, 17 percent is harvested, compared to a 77 percent average. And in Tennessee, 14 percent of the crop is harvested compared to an average of 75 percent.

The pace of harvest has been as slow as the deterioration of the crop has been quick.

Across the United States, 25 percent of the cotton crop is listed in poor to very poor condition, compared to 21 percent for the same time a year ago.

But the Mid-South crop is suffering terribly. In Louisiana, 73 percent of the cotton crop is listed in poor to very poor condition, compared to 51 percent for Mississippi and 44 percent for Arkansas.


TAGS: Cotton
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