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North Delta cotton struggling for water
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most cotton in the state looked "pretty good" in late June, but areas in the north Delta have received very little rain since April.
Tom Barber, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said some of the best cotton in the state is in the south Delta, while producers in the north Delta are having to irrigate heavily.
"We're not doing as well as we'd like in a lot of areas, and the dry weather is getting serious in places that haven't gotten any significant rain since April," Barber said. "The closer you get to the river, the less rain areas in the north received."
Barber said 65 percent to 70 percent of the crop was squaring by late June and will reach its most critical moisture need in July at mid-bloom. Early June rains allowed the crop in many areas to get established, but some areas in the north did not have enough moisture to get a stand. Other areas are surviving rather than growing.
"It's not too late in any area for some rain. We need moisture so the plants can get the growth they need," Barber said. "A normal growth rate is three nodes per day, but if we're not gaining the nodes, we're losing yield potential."
Temperatures soared in late June, allowing cotton to start accumulating the heat units it needs to develop. However, late May and early June saw a lot of cool, wet weather that brought on disease in several areas. Insects were a problem in some areas, with spider mites and thrips taking advantage of ideal conditions to multiply.
Cotton prices are poor, with cash prices in the mid-40 cents a pound range and December futures at 52 cents, the same as loan prices. Prices hit a high in late April and early May of 59 cents a pound. Last year, the average cotton price was 52 cents a pound, but 2003 had an average of 60.4 cents.
Steve Martin, Extension agricultural economist, said he hopes the market has established a bottom and will start to build back toward earlier levels.
"Keys to price direction over the next few weeks include crop conditions in the United States, export sales and shipments, and rules and regulations regarding textile shipments into this country," Martin said.