Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on December 18, 2003. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information.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.
Cotton saw per-acre record yield in 2003
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cotton farmers have reason to celebrate 2003 as prices made a long-anticipated rebound and growers harvested the highest average yield in Mississippi history.
Cotton has an estimated 2003 value of production of $780 million, a 78 percent increase from the previous year. It continues to hold its own as the state's largest row crop and the third-most valuable agricultural product behind poultry and forestry.
Will McCarty, cotton specialist and recently named Mississippi State University Extension Service assistant director, said the state produced an average of 916 pounds of cotton per acre for a total of 2.1 million bales.
"Our five-year average has been around 740 to 750 pounds, but now we're at the point where we can move our five-year production trends up another notch," McCarty said.
He said cotton planted in North Mississippi suffered through a cold and wet planting season, but weather cooperated to provide excellent growing conditions statewide.
"Temperatures were ideal for cotton with no 100-degree days and only a few days over 95 degrees," McCarty said. "Most of the state never really suffered from moisture, and only a few pockets of the state got dry a few times during the growing season."
Mississippi planted 1.12 million acres of cotton and harvested 1.1 million acres. The record-high average of 916 pounds per acre topped the previous record of 901 pounds per acre set in 1997. Below-record acreage prevented record-high production.
McCarty said weather contributed heavily to this year's record yield, but varieties and management were major players as well.
"Ninety-seven percent of Mississippi's cotton is planted in transgenic varieties. In 1995, zero percent of our cotton was planted in these varieties," McCarty said. "Within the last three years, there have been significant improvements in the varieties available for farmers."
McCarty said very little of the state's cotton was grown in no-till or conservation tillage systems in the mid 1990s, but more than 90 percent of Mississippi's acreage is in some form of reduced-till management today.
"The technology available in transgenic cotton has allowed growers to move to reduced tillage systems and manage weeds better," McCarty said. "Bt technology has significantly assisted our growers in controlling tobacco budworms, and a gigantic step forward was the virtual elimination of the boll weevil as a pest in Mississippi.
"When you combine transgenic technology with tillage techniques and boll weevil eradication, farmers are able to be more efficient in the production of cotton," McCarty said. "These technologies allow farmers to grow the same acreage with less labor and machinery or to grow more acreage with the same labor and machinery. It has increased the efficiency of the individual cotton farmer."
Prices for cotton improved considerably this year. John Anderson, Extension agricultural economist, said cotton prices have been terrible in recent years, with market prices below the loan rate of 52 cents a pound. Price rebounded some this year, with December futures hitting a high of 82 cents a pound in October. By the end of the year, March futures were trading for about 70 cents a pound, and cash prices hovered at 66 to 67 cents a pound.
"The bottom line is there were some good opportunities to price cotton in the fall," Anderson said. "The market did soften up a good bit during the fall, but it's still at a level that is much better than we've seen the last couple of years."