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Hurricane season punished some cotton

libbie-sally-12.jpg Libbie Johnson/University of Florida Extension - Escambia County
Cotton field after Hurricane Sally in Escambia, Fla., near the Alabama line.
Alabama's later crop has generally fared better than the earlier planted.

Except for tropical storms, September and October are typically the driest months for Alabama, but 2020 has been no typical year. Tropical storms and persistently wet conditions punished what was looking like a crop to boast about.

Earlier this summer, we spoke with Steve Brown, Alabama Cooperative Extension cotton specialist. The cotton crop was growing rapidly, Brown said then. April and early May plantings were showing signs of fast maturity with three-quarters of the crop rated good to excellent. Some fields looked to break record yields.

But things changed.

"We’ve seen a few really good fields, some already picked, but overall the crop has been punished by poor conditions in what are typically our driest weeks. Persisting overcast, wet weather and periodic rains have delayed defoliation and harvest. We’re behind. The later crop has generally fared better than the earlier planted. Sunshine may brighten and improve a crop that once was well above average, but I suspect yields from planted acreage may fall below 850 pounds per acre and 775,000 bales," he says in his most recent Alabama Cotton Shorts newsletter

Hurricane Sally hit the Alabama Gulf Coast Sept. 16, "and in contrast to frequent post-hurricane weather, rain and overcast conditions persisted for 10-plus days afterwards, adding to boll rot and hardlock, which were already in abundance. Prior to Sally, Laura affected parts of North Alabama. Behind Sally, on Oct. 9-10, came Delta dumping rain on a lot of cotton," he says.

The August USDA estimate for Alabama cotton predicted an average yield of 981 pounds per acre with a total of 950,000 bales from 465,000 acres. The September report downgraded adjustments in acres planted 450,000 with an average yield 976 pounds per acre for a total 905,500 bales.

The Oct 9 USDA report predicted yields of 960 per acre from 445,000 acres harvested for a total of 890,000 bales. Keep in mind that the Boll Weevil Eradication Program reported slightly under 405,000 planted acres.

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