Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on July 2, 2009. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information.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.
Low cotton acres face summer heat
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi’s 2009 cotton is shaping up to be more a story of how the mighty have fallen than another chapter in the reign of King Cotton.
A poor outlook on market prices and continued high input costs led many producers to move away from cotton, and wet weather during the April and May planting window kept even more acres out of cotton production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Mississippi has 270,000 acres of cotton in 2009, the lowest on record. For comparison, Mississippi had 1.2 million acres of cotton in 2006.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, is happy to have even that many acres in the ground.
“In some cases, we have had folks successful with getting a good stand the first time, but others replanted three times,” Dodds said. “It’s kind of surprising with all the weather we’ve had that we got as much cotton planted as we did.”
The majority of Mississippi’s cotton is typically planted between April 15 and May 15. This year, producers didn’t finish until about June 10. That pushes harvest from mid- to late-September to October and November.
“If you start late, you’re going to finish late, and then you really run into problems with weather in the fall,” Dodds said. “We may have a long, favorable growing season where planting late doesn’t necessarily hurt us. However, it appears that we are in for a very hot, very dry summer. This combined with unpredictable weather conditions this fall could lead to lower yields and trouble getting this crop out of the field.”
Producers can do a few things to help cotton mature as quickly as possible.
“Make sure you get irrigation started on time and keep up with it. Don’t get behind on it, as this can really make or break a crop,” Dodds said. “Growth regulators can be used to try to limit the plant’s vegetative growth and put all the effort into boll production.”
Angus Catchot, Extension entomologist, said insects were just becoming a problem in some areas by the end of June.
“We’re dealing with plant bugs in older cotton, especially next to corn. They’ve been relatively light up until this point, but we’re about to start having to treat regularly for them, especially in the Delta,” Catchot said. “The plant bugs have been out there, but they were in wild hosts that had grown up with all the rain in May. As things got hot and dry, the plant bugs began moving into cotton.”
Cotton in the Delta is dealing with spider mites, which find the current hot, dry weather ideal. Cotton aphids are causing problems only in a few places, but those areas with these pests have already had to spray for them.
“All these things are treatable, but it’s a financial problem if you have to treat a lot of insects with cotton prices already so low,” Catchot said.
John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said cotton prices have been moving higher since mid-June. The October futures price is about 55.5 cents per pound, and December futures are at 60.5 cents a pound.
“At this time last year, we were experiencing a drastic run-up in all commodity prices, and harvest cotton futures were about 75 cents a pound, but that didn’t last,” Riley said. “Current prices are reminiscent of actual harvest prices in 2007.”
He said the decrease in acres continues to indicate cotton is losing ground to other, more attractive crops such as corn and soybeans. But that doesn’t mean cotton is leaving Mississippi.
“Many producers refuse to abandon the crop completely,” Riley said.