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Slow start has cotton non-uniform statewide
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Wet weather through most of spring doubled the time it takes to get cotton planted, and the crop was in widely varying stages of development by the end of June.
Will McCarty, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the statewide crop is non-uniform because of excessive rains that delayed cotton plantings, drowned out emerging stands and stunted other areas. Some crops had to be replanted.
"Cotton ranges from just getting a good stand and starting to grow to cotton that has been blooming for two to three weeks," McCarty said. "We had very low levels of sunshine, much higher than normal rainfall and some cooler temperatures in May."
In general, cotton planted north of Highway 82 is more variable than that planted south of the highway. McCarty said he is still optimistic about the crop since cotton is an indeterminate perennial, meaning it never quits trying to grow.
"Cotton is a very resilient plant. It has the ability to take a lot of abuse and still come back and make a good crop if we have time," he said.
McCarty said state producers began planting cotton within the first 10 days of April, but didn't finish until the first 10 days of June. What should have been a four- to six-week planting window was stretched into eight to 10 weeks.
"Because cotton is at such different stages of development, we're set up to have a crop that will be very vulnerable to fall weather," McCarty said.
The crop's acreage is down some from last year because of weather problems at planting, but McCarty said it is still above 1.1 million acres.
To date, insect problems have been light to moderate with just some areas fighting aphids and plant bugs. In May, a lot of conventional cotton was hurt by herbicide drift from other fields during the high winds of that month.
"This crop has got problems, but we still have a long time to go until it is harvested. There's still plenty of time for Mississippi to have a good crop," he said.
If farmers could special-order the weather from now until harvest, McCarty said they'd get daytime temperatures in the low 90s, mild nighttime temperatures and 1 1/2 inches of rain every Friday afternoon so they could stay out of the fields on weekends.