Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on December 11, 1995. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Budworms Take a Bite Out of Cotton Profits
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Tobacco budworms didn't just take a bite out of cotton bolls, they joined the drought-like conditions to take a bite out of cotton growers' bank accounts.
"Growers not only harvested less cotton in 1995, but it was also one of the state's most expensive cotton crops ever," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University. "These two factors -- a smaller crop and higher costs -- are pushing a significant number of growers to the brink of financial disaster."
Excessively high budworm numbers drove up insecticide costs in the hill section of the state as growers battled to salvage their crop. Delta growers suffered crop losses in the wake of near-record high temperatures in August.
DeWitt Caillavet, agricultural economist at MSU, said the state produced about 1.84 million bales, down 14 percent from 1994. Yields were down more than 200 pounds of lint per acre.
Cotton's estimated value of farm production dropped $85 million from $828 million in 1994 to $743 million in 1995.
Despite the drastic drop, 1995 was better than two years before when the state's cotton value was $628 million.
Cotton ranked third among the state's agricultural commodities behind forestry with an estimated harvest value of $1.1 billion and poultry/eggs with an estimated farm value of $1.09 billion.
Early summer months held the promise of another profitable year for cotton growers. Then tobacco budworms arrived in the hill section earlier and in higher numbers than normal.
Dr. Blake Layton, extension entomologist at MSU, said insect control costs reached record highs in the hill section of the state. About $118 per acre was spent in the hill counties, compared to about $76 per acre in the Delta. The state's average insect control cost was estimated at $90 per acre.
"Normally, insect costs are higher in the Delta than in the hill section," Layton said. "The highest amount growers in the hills had spent before had been $86 per acre in 1993."
The extremely hot, dry conditions in late July and August further hurt the state's crop.
McCarty said the amount of cotton yield potential lost to insects and the heat is uncertain.
The state's harvest was 32 percent less than in the record 1991 year when farmers grew 888 pounds of lint per acre for 2.28 million bales. In 1995, farmers harvested 605 pounds per acre for a state crop of 1.84 million bales.
Caillavet said prices throughout most of 1995 were well above normal. The market finished the year at about 10 to 15 cents higher than normal.
"World supply is higher than last year, so we'll probably see prices start to come down in 1996," Caillavet said. "A lot will depend on how much cotton is planted in '96. Since prices are still fairly high, world acreage probably will increase."
A harsh winter with extremely cold temperatures should help the expectations for Mississippi's 1996 crop.