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No consistency to numbers

Delta cotton harvest uneven Harvesting test plots, Louisiana Extension cotton specialist John Barnett has seen cotton yields run from 400 pounds on dryland Sharkey clay to a little over 1,000 pounds on irrigated land. Yield numbers are similarly uneven across the whole state.

"Around 100,000 acres of cotton are very poor. We've got around half the crop that should be in the 500- to 600-pound range. Then there is some 1,000-pound cotton on irrigated land and some deep, alluvial soils in the central part of Louisiana."

The early dryland cotton of the state's Macon Ridge was extremely poor - around 200 to 300 pounds per acre. As farmers moved into the season, they got into some better cotton in the 500- to 600-pound range, says Barnett.

Harvest is moving fast. Barnett says Louisiana is probably 50 to 60 percent harvested in most areas.

"We've had a few problems with fiber characteristics. A lot of the early cotton has been short staple - 32 and 33. About 70 percent of the early crop was in that range. Those numbers, as of Sept. 18, represented some 90,000 bales."

Micronaire also has a tendency to the higher range, says Barnett. "But it's acceptable. About 90 percent of the crop so far is under 5.

"Everything else is looking good. The weather is fine, pickers are everywhere and many fields are defoliated.

"We started this year looking at an excellent chance for a bumper crop. That optimism lasted until about July 4. At that point, the crop began going downhill - severely in August."

Areas along the Ouachita River, where farmers normally grow some 1,000-pound cotton dryland, are turning out 500-pound cotton this year.

"There just isn't a lot of optimism in the state," says Barnett.

Mississippi Mississippi is less than 20 percent picked and dryland yields remain disappointing, says Extension cotton specialist Will McCarty.

"We had some rains last week (early September) followed by poor drying conditions. That slowed down harvesting operations. Nothing awful has been seen due to the rains yet. However, behind these small rains some of the cotton is looking worse than I would have anticipated. We're hoping we get some bright, sunshine for several days to bleach some of the cotton, whiten and fluff it out. That will let us get the cotton out of the field before further deterioration.

"I'm sure some grading has been done, but gins are just beginning to kick off. I have heard that short staples have come back on some early picking."

Dryland yields have run from as low as 200 pounds to some 800-pound fields. The 800-pound reports are coming off some of the really strong land in the Delta and creek bottoms, says McCarty. The upland soils are where the troubles are being seen. In those areas, there is a lot of 300- and 400-pound cotton being picked.

Pests? "We had a high number of whiteflies toward the end, but I can't tell if we had any sticky cotton from them. The cool temperatures over the last couple of days has slowed down defoliant activity. That isn't anything we can't overcome. We just need some good weather to get the rest of the crop out."

Arkansas Just starting to harvest, Arkansas farmers are apprehensive, but hopeful, says Extension cotton specialist Bill Robertson. "We're just starting to get into our good cotton now. Some of the early reports out of some irrigated cotton around Marianna say the cotton is looking really fine. But they've got some deep, strong ground there."

Reports that grades have been good have been welcome news. In fact, the highest micronaire count Robertson has heard was 4.9.

"The consensus seems to be that the yields are a touch lower than what was expected."

What about the rains? "We're to the point now where the only thing a rain can do is hurt us. We have a tremendous amount of regrowth potential. I was in an area around Pine Bluff recently that got several inches of rain very quickly. The cotton wasn't strung out, and I was surprised at how quickly it was fluffing back out. I don't think this last round of rains hurt us too much."

But for now, more rain is not welcome. Farmers are currently busting bolls open with Prep. A shower could come in and lock up some bolls, says Robertson.

"I'm hearing 250 to 300 pounds on the bottom end. On the high end, there are some fields that have done better than a bale. Around 420 or 430 pounds is commonly cited."

On another harvesting front, Robertson has fielded several calls about putting Gramoxone Extra out with a boll-opening rate of Prep. "I've advised against that. Defoliating leaves is an active process - the plant has to be growing. That's especially true with Prep. If you look at what Gramoxone does, it essentially shuts a plant down. Combining the two doesn't make sense - they'll cancel each other out."

Robertson has also been stressing that farmers need to sample for nematodes. Harvest-time is a good time to do that. "I like to go in with a four-wheeler after picking and shredding. I believe nematodes have taken a big chunk out of our yields this year. There are ways to manage around it, but you've got to know what's out there before you can address it properly."

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