News Filed Under Cotton
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.
STARKVILLE -- Cotton farmers can testify to what a difference a year makes. As favorable growing conditions continue, growers prepare for the final hurdle -- harvest.
At this time last year, growers were watching yield potential plunged until the final state harvest was 650,000 bales fewer than the Aug. 1 crop forecast. Tobacco budworms and an excessively hot August condemned the 1995 crop.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When cotton growers look down, they see plants full of potential. When they look up, growers see little hope of much-needed rains arriving in the next several weeks.
"Cotton needs rain soon to help the plants grow and fill out the bolls. Without a rain, we will start seeing boll losses," said John Coccaro, Sharkey County extension agricultural agent.
STARKVILLE -- So far so good. Cotton growers are "cautiously optimistic" that this year will not bring weather and insect traumas reminiscent of 1995.
A cold, boll weevil killing winter, budworm resistant cotton and a decent planting season are some of the positive factors going for this year's crop. But bad memories of 1995's insect battles and hopes for cashing in on corn and soybean's high prices in 1996 are driving many growers away from cotton.
GRENADA -- Cotton growers from Mississippi's eastern counties recently aired complaints against 1995's boll weevil eradication efforts and received information on improvements planned for 1996.
Growers from Region IV's 29 counties down the eastern side of the state joined growers from across Mississippi at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corp. in Grenada.
A devastating insect year resulted in growers from several counties accusing eradication efforts for low yields and crop failures.
JACKSON -- Cotton growers opposed to the boll weevil eradication program believe a ruling by the Mississippi Attorney General's Office is good news, but supporters of the program believe it is good news for the boll weevils.
In a ruling released Jan. 25, prior to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the attorney general's opinion was that growers could keep the program with a two-thirds majority voting in favor of continuing the program.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Tobacco budworms didn't just take a bite out of cotton bolls, they joined the drought-like conditions to take a bite out of cotton growers' bank accounts.
"Growers not only harvested less cotton in 1995, but it was also one of the state's most expensive cotton crops ever," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University. "These two factors -- a smaller crop and higher costs -- are pushing a significant number of growers to the brink of financial disaster."
STARKVILLE -- Cotton, rice and soybean growers have seen their August dreams turn into October nightmares as yield estimates have plunged in the wake of insects, heat and drought.
"In total economic impact, the state will not see about $900 million that cotton, rice and soybeans had the potential of making when the crops were evaluated in July," said DeWitt Caillavet, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University.
STARKVILLE -- Late season cotton yield estimates have plummeted as drought and insect damage effects become apparent.
From the original yield estimate on Aug. 1 to the recently released Oct. 1 figures, Mississippi's harvest estimate has dropped 660,000 bales -- for a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the state's economy.
STARKVILLE -- Hurricane Opal's unwelcome rains showed Mississippi's crops more mercy than Alabama's, but a delay in harvest is anything but good news for farmers struggling to put 1995 behind them.
The late-season hurricane dropped relatively small amounts of rain on the Mississippi Delta and from 2 to 3 inches on the eastern side of the state. Unfortunately, any rain at this point in the season provides only negative effects on the harvest-ready crops.
STARKVILLE -- Cotton yields will not be what many growers dreamed of when they increased Mississippi's crop by 100,000 acres to take advantage of stronger prices. Higher than normal insect pressure and excessive heat have taken their toll.
"Preliminary yields do not look good," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University.
The Sept. 1 crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought bleak news on the expectations for Mississippi's crop.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hot, dry conditions that have burned up yards and pastures cannot do much more damage to Mississippi's row crops. Any rains arriving at this point will have little impact on the crops' development and may hurt harvest quality.
Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said corn may be the one bright spot for this year's dim harvest outlook. Recent weather conditions have helped the corn dry appropriately for harvest.
STARKVILLE -- Don't let the name fool you, tobacco budworms love cotton. Extremely high numbers have invaded Mississippi's hill section fields at levels that defy control efforts -- seriously lessening yield potential.
Tobacco budworms are the primary pest cotton farmers must control. They feed on cotton squares and bolls (usually less than 20 days old) resulting in those bolls shedding from the plants.
These pests do not damage the leaves, so plants appear healthy at first glance.
STARKVILLE -- High temperatures and scattered showers are challenging Mississippi's cotton roots to plunge deeper for the water they need to develop and retain bolls.
"Any major stress on a cotton plant in the first couple weeks of boll set (development) can cause the loss of bolls," said Charlie Estess, Coahoma County extension agent.
"We've seen some boll loss in the recent weeks of drought and heat," Estess said. "Some of the scattered showers have lessened losses."
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As state cotton growers keep an eye on rising cotton prices and river levels, they are planning strategies to battle insect pest attacks on the crop.
December futures currently are trading in the 82-cent to 83- cent range and have reached life-of-contract highs in the past week.
Dr. Bob Williams, interim state program leader for agriculture and natural resources at Mississippi State University, said several factors have boosted prices.
STARKVILLE -- Cotton prices are on the rise, even if the Midsouth crop is not. Rains and cooler than normal weather are delaying the planting and growth of Mississippi's 1995 cotton.
Dr. O.A. Cleveland, extension marketing specialist at Mississippi State University, said December futures, which
represent this spring's plantings, posted a life-of-contract high of more than 82 cents on May 3. Prices are about 15 cents higher than this time last year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Economists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced their crop predictions Friday in the planting intentions report, but Mother Nature and farmers will get the final word.
Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said although there were no major surprises in the acreage estimates, actual plantings will hinge on the weather.
"Weather always influences crop acreages. Delayed plantings because of rain will force farmers to second choice crops with later planting dates," Blaine said.