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Cotton Growers Await '96 Harvest's Verdict
STARKVILLE -- Cotton farmers can testify to what a difference a year makes. As favorable growing conditions continue, growers prepare for the final hurdle -- harvest.
At this time last year, growers were watching yield potential plunged until the final state harvest was 650,000 bales fewer than the Aug. 1 crop forecast. Tobacco budworms and an excessively hot August condemned the 1995 crop.
Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University, said the state's crop is stable, with no current significant damaging aspects. However, cotton is entering a vulnerable time.
"Most defoliation will take place the first couple weeks of September. Any rain after defoliation begins will damage cotton quality and yields," McCarty said.
This year's August report predicted Mississippi growers will harvest about 792 pounds per acre, up 170 pounds from 1995. Mississippi growers will harvest about 1.03 million acres, which is 27 percent fewer than last year. The state's yield is projected at about 1.7 million bales, down 8 percent from last year.
Dr. Blake Layton, extension entomologist at MSU, said 1996's insect control costs have been among the lowest in the 1990s. In fact, this year's insect costs have been about half of 1995's expenses.
"A cold winter and low boll weevil numbers in June helped us protect more beneficial insects (by not spraying for weevils)," Layton said. "Some growers still battled plant bugs during the growing season."
Since tobacco budworm populations were much smaller than in 1995, they were easier to control.
"Instead of high budworm numbers this year, we've seen more bollworms," Layton said. "Fortunately, bollworms are not resistant to pyrethroids and are easier and less expensive to control."
Layton said growers are working to control boll weevils as they experience their usual population increase in August. Last year's tobacco budworm damage influenced some growers to plant Bt cotton, which is resistant to budworms and bollworms, and was available for the first time this year. In some cases where populations were extremely high, Bt cotton growers still had to work to control bollworms.
Dr. Dennis Reginelli, Noxubee County agent, said non-Bt cotton looks as good as Bt cotton in some cases. Some non-Bt cotton around the state never required any spraying for budworms or bollworms.
Dr. O.A. Cleveland, extension marketing specialist at MSU, said the national cotton crop is predicted at 18.6 million bales, compared to 17.9 million bales in 1995. Planted acreage was 16.9 million acres in 1995, compared to 14.1 million this year.