News Filed Under Cotton
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi cotton growers chose to plant fewer acres in 1998 knowing the world market offered little promise. The hot, dry summer prevented a repeat of 1997's record yields, but growers still managed to harvest near the five-year average.
Dr. John Robinson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, predicted the 1998 farm-gate value of Mississippi's cotton will be about $541 million, down 16 percent from the previous year. Cotton felt a triple whammy from reduced acres, smaller yields and lower prices.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most cotton and soybean farmers relaxed as Hurricane Georges hung a hard right after landfall, but for Southeast Mississippi growers, the results were devastating.
Dr. Alan Blaine, agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said growers across the state with fields almost ready for harvest were working around the clock to avoid the predicted heavy winds and rain.
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."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- An 1880s and a 1920s cotton gin are the latest additions to agricultural engineering classes at Mississippi State University.
Joe Jim Hogan of Oxford donated the cotton gin stands to MSU's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in May. Both cotton gins were steam-powered. The older one could gin four to six bales of cotton a day, the newer one could gin eight in a day.
"I thought maybe the university could use it in some way to show people how the old gins were made," Hogan said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton crop is off to a good start this year with boll weevil treatments set to begin in early June.
Dr. Blake Layton, entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said cotton pin-head square applications should begin the first week of June in some places, but most of the crop will be treated the following week.
By Linda Breazeale
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi cotton growers are keenly aware of insect control every year because it is one of their most costly issues, but after this year's mild winter, they are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
The Mid-South region has the highest costs to produce cotton. To be competitive with state's that have eradicated boll weevils, Mississippi needs 3 to 5 cents per pound more at the market. The 1997-98 winter was one of Mississippi's mildest winters in 20 years, which is a major concern for 1998 boll weevil control.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi cotton growers are expected to plant less than 1 million acres for the second consecutive year -- a trend that could hurt cotton's support industries in the state.
"We have significant concerns about cotton's infrastructure as acres are converted to crops that generate less economic activity," said Dr. O.A. Cleveland, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Cotton is a high cost crop with a large support industry surrounding it."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- No-till cotton farming has gained in popularity in recent years as farmers are learning it can be a successful practice when managed correctly.
Dr. Jac Varco, agronomist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said no-tillage cotton increased from 1,183 acres in 1989 to 52,146 acres in 1997. Starting with the 1985 Farm Bill, farmers are required to put highly erodible land in either the Conservation Reserve Program or use conservation practices on that land.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's rich soil has a reputation for producing impressive cotton crops, but Georgia's boll weevil-free fields have rapidly become the top Southeast producers.
"When the market is not strong, growers need all the breaks they can get to make a profit," said Dr. Michael Ouart, extension state program leader for agriculture and natural resources at Mississippi State University. "If boll weevils are not a control factor, growers can invest that money in other ways to produce higher yields."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's total value of production posted an new record of $4.9 billion, an increase of 3 percent from 1996. Casual observers might think a 3 percent change means little happened in Mississippi's 1997 farm economy.
"Several row crops had significant changes in their total value this year, but that was largely because of planted acreage changes," said Dr. John Robinson, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- How can Mississippi cotton growers harvest a record 900 pound average and not be enthusiastic about the crop?
1997 was the first year since 1983 that Mississippi cotton growers planted less than 1 million acres, and only the third time since record keeping began in 1866. Growers had governmental incentive to reduce acres in 1983 due to abundant supplies. In 1997, the incentives not to plant cotton came from market prices.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Like a real roller coaster ride, 1997 left some farmers saying, "Let's go again," and others saying, "No way."
Cold, wet conditions at planting time had row-crop growers struggling to plant fields. As the conditions persisted, the young plants struggled to mature.
"Early season conditions resulted in about 30,000 acres of cotton being destroyed -- mainly in Northeast Mississippi," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University.
Growers planted much of the state's cotton later than ideal.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cotton farmers and their nemesis, the boll weevil, begin their traditional fall routines with 1998 on their minds.
The verdict is still out on 1997's crop which battled all season to overcome late plantings in cool, wet conditions.
Dr. Blake Layton, extension cotton entomologist at Mississippi State University, described the state's crop as "the most erratic crop we've ever seen." Still, he said Mississippi growers should harvest a better-than-average crop.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The harvest season is approaching for Mississippi's "big three" row crops, and it's been a difficult year for some producers.
"There's a lot of variation in this year's soybean crop," said extension soybean specialist Alan Blaine. "Depending on who you talk to, it's either one of the best ever or one of the worst. On average, the 1997 soybean crop in Mississippi is a good one."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's estimate for the state's soybean crop is about 55 million bushels, up from more than 54 million harvested last year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi cotton growers have been battling boll weevils for almost 100 years, but the real war is just beginning.
Cotton growers in Mississippi's hill section and south Delta voted last January to join other Southeastern states in an intensive boll weevil eradication program. The effort in the hill section begins the first week of August with aerial spraying of all cotton fields to prevent weevils from entering diapause, the stage of overwinter preparation. South Delta efforts begin in the fall of 1998.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Weather has been a constant challenge for Mississippi's cotton growers.
Rain delayed most of the crop's planting time two to three weeks. Next, continued rains and cool weather slowed initial growth. Fields in Northeast Mississippi have suffered the most.
"We're looking at the good, the bad and the being destroyed," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University. "Most poorly drained fields have drowned out. Whenever farmers can get in those fields, they will likely replant in soybeans, if possible."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cool, rainy days have delayed cotton growth, but not boll weevils. Cotton's No. 1 enemy is emerging from overwintering and searching for cotton squares.
"Even though boll weevil numbers are high, I'm not as concerned about them as I am about the crop as a whole," said Mike Williams, extension entomologist at Mississippi State University. "The insects don't even want the cotton at this point."
Spring conditions have delayed the cotton's growth by at least two weeks in most areas of the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cotton, once king in Mississippi, is losing ground to other crops as production costs and market prices prompt some growers to venture away from their historical favorite.
Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University, said switching from cotton can be a difficult move.
"If you already have the cotton equipment and farm labor costs, no other crop will pay the bills like cotton," McCarty said.
Growers typically plant cotton on the best land, which also rents for higher prices.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton growers haven't closed their books on the 1996 crop, but insects clearly will not be the negative factors they were last year.
Many growers' books went in the red during 1995's tobacco budworm invasion prompting Mississippi growers to plant about 28 percent fewer cotton acres in 1996.
Dr. Blake Layton, extension entomologist at Mississippi State University, said insect costs in the state's hill area will be about half the 1995 levels. Delta growers may be looking at two-thirds of last year's control costs.
By Douglas Wilcox
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- After 1995's cotton disaster, most growers confess compared to last year's harvest the only one way to go is up.
Unfortunately, recent showers and cooler weather have made harvesting difficult, and many growers are beginning to wonder if Mother Nature is giving them the cold shoulder.
With about 40 percent of the crop out of the fields, growers need sunny days to maintain quality and finish harvesting.