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Cotton Takes Detour On Road To Success
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton was on the road to success in early July until weather stress, insects and diseases forced the crop to take a detour.
Dr. Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the August crops are a far cry from the fields a month earlier.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a crop develop this fast and then back up just as fast," McCarty said. "We had the motherload of crops until hot, dry weather, insects and diseases took their toll."
McCarty said thanks to timely rains in early July, some of Mississippi's cotton looks good. The hotter-than-normal temperatures have pushed the crop about 18 days ahead of schedule, which should enable growers to harvest early. Harvesting early improves market prices and helps avoid lost quality due to fall rains.
"Cotton still has a chance to be the bright spot among Mississippi's row crops, but with the drought's effect on soybeans and corn and now the additional problem with aflatoxin in corn, it won't take much for cotton to do better," McCarty said.
The cotton specialist said plants have had significant problems with fruit shed. Wilt diseases on various varieties also have caused their share of damage.
"Even with the fruit shed and additional problems, a late fall and good late-season growing conditions will help make this a good crop for Mississippi growers," McCarty said.
Dr. Blake Layton, Extension entomology specialist, said bollworms and tobacco budworms have not been kind to the 1998 cotton crop. The good news has been the lack of boll weevils in Mississippi's hill cotton where boll weevil eradication efforts are underway.
Tobacco budworm resistant Bt cotton has done its job minimizing budworm damage, but bollworms have bit into Bt yields. Layton said the state has experienced an increase in bollworm numbers in recent years as the corn acreage has grown. Non-Bt cotton fields have received significant damage from bollworms and budworms.
"North Delta fields have had more boll weevils than normal, but timely pin-head square applications have helped reduce losses so far," Layton said. "However, many fields in this area will need additional treatments to reduce late-season populations."
The time has arrived to assault the last of the season's boll weevils before they leave fields for overwintering sites. Organized boll weevil eradication efforts began for South Delta fields the first week of August.