ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — The state’s cotton producers remain optimistic about a crop that is up significantly in acreage despite frequent planting delays.
The state is expected to plant about 400,000 acres of cotton in 2014, about 40 percent more than last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on June 15 that cotton was 98 percent planted. USDA rated 65 percent of the crop as “good” or “excellent,” but 32 percent was rated “fair.”
Darrin Dodds, a Mississippi State University Extension cotton specialist, attributed the lower rating to poor growing conditions so far this season.
“Not long after this crop was planted, it faced a lot of excess water stress and heavy thrips infestation,” Dodds said. “Conditions finally started to dry out by the second week of June. We’re now seeing some good temperatures and not a lot of rain, which let the soil dry out a bit and the cotton begin to thrive.”
Dodds said a small amount of cotton was planted the last week of April, but the rest of the crop went into the ground sporadically.
“It turned off cold and wet, and planting was interrupted in May,” he said. “Twice we had a period of three to four days where it dried out enough between rains that we could plant, and then we had a window of five or six days before it rained again. The last of the cotton was planted the first week of June.”
Producers now are behind schedule on herbicide applications, which has held the crop back and led to some issues with weed control.
“We may have some yield losses to pigweed that wasn’t controlled in a timely manner,” Dodds said.
At roughly $650 an acre in the Delta, cotton is an expensive crop to grow, but yields like those seen in 2013 made the crop attractive. Last year, the state set a record average yield of 1,229 pounds an acre, and Dodds said some fields harvested more than 2,000 pounds an acre.
“We made a tremendous crop last year, and with cotton prices respectable and corn prices down, cotton was able to gain some acres that corn lost,” Dodds said.
John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said expected harvesttime cotton prices are about 76 to 78 cents a pound. These prices are similar to those paid during the 2013 harvest but several cents lower than prices seen earlier this spring.
“All crops are under pressure now that planting is largely complete and the conditions of the major crops are favorable,” Riley said. “Cotton prices have been fairly steady since late May when compared to corn and soybean prices, which have continued to move lower.”
Texas is typically home to half the nation’s cotton acreage, and this year, it is expected to have 58 percent of the U.S. cotton crop. Recent rains there have pressured cotton prices.
“There is speculation that growers will plant fewer than the projected 11.1 million acres of cotton due to the drop in prices, but since competing crop prices have followed a similar path, that may not happen,” Riley said.