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Timely rains boost cotton's early growth
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton fields are benefiting from timely rains and are off to one of their best starts in recent years, but the crop has significantly fewer acres in 2007.
By the middle of May, more than 70 percent of the state's cotton was planted and 35 percent was emerged, according to a report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Mississippi.
Angus Catchot, cotton entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said parts of the state received rains around the second week of May, but some areas in the south and east missed out.
“As a whole, Delta cotton is off to one of the better starts we have had in several years,” Catchot said.
The entomologist said cotton is vulnerable to attack from more than a dozen species of insects throughout the growing season. Growers use a variety of non-insecticidal options to reduce threats, but timely control measures remain essential. Scouts monitor insect populations in cotton fields every three to four days until crop maturity.
“In general, thrips pressure is as heavy as anyone has seen it in some areas of the Delta, especially around wheat,” Catchot said. “Seed treatments and in-furrow pesticides have held up fairly well, but we are beginning to pick up immature pests and damage in some areas. There are several fields now receiving additional foliar applications for thrips.”
Jerry Singleton, area agronomic crops agent based in Leflore County, said insect pressure has been low on most cotton fields so far, but concern about thrips will increase as wheat harvest takes place during the last weeks of May and the first of June.
“We will be watching for thrips to move out of wheat and into cotton,” Singleton said. “So far, cotton has been growing very fast, and the biggest need is weed control. Wind and rain have kept some growers from treating fields in a timely manner.”
Steve Martin, agricultural economist at MSU's Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said 2007 will be an unusual year for Mississippi's cotton from an acreage standpoint. Growers are predicted to plant 740,000 acres, a 40 percent reduction from last year.
“If the acreage predictions are accurate, this will be the second fewest cotton acres in the state since 1983,” Martin said. “Cotton prices have been hurt by the huge supply carryover from last year. Growers are switching to corn and soybeans because of their very good prices this year.”
Martin said if growers consider other crops from a rotational standpoint, cotton yields should be much better in the years after corn is grown in the fields.