News Filed Under Cotton
By Rebekah Ray
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Two Mississippi State University researchers showed that combining remote sensing and variable rates of fertilizer application helps cotton production on different types of soils.
Using a test plot located in the North Delta, Dr. Jac Varco and MSU research assistant John Thompson studied cotton's performance under different conditions.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton appears to be headed for an above average crop in 1999 as insect pressures are low and the weather is favorable for cotton production.
Dr. Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the overall crop looked very good by mid-July.
"At this point, the crop has good moisture, vegetative growth, fruit set and light insect pressure," McCarty said. "With still months before harvest when anything can happen, the potential of this year's cotton is definitely above average."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton planting is progressing slower and more challenging than some growers would like, especially in areas that have required replanting.
"Flash flooding, heavy rains and hail are causing more replanting decisions than normal for Mississippi growers, and those who planted early have suffered the most," said Dr. Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Overall, cotton planting is progressing a little slower than we would like."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Farmers across Mississippi are moving some of their acres to cotton or soybeans based on poor prices and a bad year for corn in 1998.
Dr. Erick Larson, corn specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said last year's problems with aflatoxin have been the most significant factor keeping corn acreage low this year.
"Many growers are uncomfortable dealing with the risk of aflatoxin because it develops based primarily on environmental conditions over which the grower has little control," Larson said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most cotton growers haven't planted the first seed, but they are already making decisions for managing insects.
Continued poor market prices, a mild winter and location in the state are among the issues growers are considering as they make choices between transgenic cotton that is resistant to budworms and nontransgenic seeds. Timely plantings for an early maturing crop continues to be another part of the insect risk management strategy.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Knowing what the weather will be like is about the only variable keeping Mississippi State University researchers from being able to predict some cotton and soybean yields.
Dr. Harry Hodges, crop physiology and production specialist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said computer programs have been developed to simulate crop growth. The goal is to know how plants will respond to environmental variables.
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.