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Weather Plays Havoc With Cotton Planting
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.
"We can attribute this high price to delayed plantings in the Midsouth," Cleveland said. "Prices in this range during planting season happen slightly more often than once a decade."
Cleveland said since cotton from 1994 is scarce, weather problems have an even greater than normal impact on prices.
Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at MSU, said several cool fronts accompanied by rain have delayed Mississippi's cotton plantings significantly. As of May 1, about 27 percent of the state's crop was in the ground. Although that is drastically below last year's 73 percent, growers are near the five-year planting average of 33 percent.
"Even though we're getting off to a slow start, things are not critical yet," McCarty said. "A high percentage of Mississippi's cotton will be fast-fruiting, early-maturing varieties."
The cotton specialist said with the later plantings, early season management becomes more critical.
"With proper management and some breaks from the weather, we still have ample opportunity to make a full crop," McCarty said. "Growers must prevent controllable stresses such as insect and herbicide injury. If the cool, wet soil conditions are followed by hot temperatures, there will be an increased risk of seedling disease and other problems."
McCarty said cotton that was up and growing before the rains arrived fared better than the freshly planted fields.
John Coccaro, area cotton agent in Sharkey County, said many farmers will have to replant because of excessive rains. Fields with heavier soil types have endured better than the sandy soil fields.
"Growers have had everything from the beginning of a terrific spring where everything looked like a million bucks to a rocky road leading toward disaster," Coccaro said. "We had about 30 to 40 percent planted around Easter, then we got 10 to 12 inches of rain around the weekend after Easter."
Coccaro said the rains packed the soil like concrete. Instead of seedlings' taking four to six days to emerge, they took 14 days or more.
"When seedlings finally emerged, they were very week. We've seen a lot of seedling disease," Coccaro said.
"Growers have opted to replant about two-thirds of cotton acres and hope for a healthier stand rather than limp along with the earlier planted seedlings," Coccaro said. "That's been a tough decision for growers, but hopefully it will pay off in the long-run."