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Drought Made 2000 Tough For Cotton
By Crystel Bailey
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hot and dry conditions made it tough for Mississippi cotton farmers in 2000 even though they managed to increase cotton acreage.
Mississippi's cotton's estimated value in 2000 was $518 million, which was up from $441 million in 1999. This makes cotton the state's No. 3 crop. Mississippi farmers planted 1.36 million acres of cotton in 2000, and harvested 1.28 million acres. Yields averaged 649 pounds per acre, compared to 708 pounds per acre in 1999.
"While the yield was down significantly from the five-year average of 745 pounds per acre, we harvested 100,000 more acres in 2000 than we did in 1999," said Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State's University's Extension Service.
Dry weather caused cotton to mature faster than normal, which hurt yield and quality. In turn, prices suffered. Cotton seed prices are expected to average $110 per ton, which was up from 1999's $72.50 per ton. The average bale of cotton in 2000-2001 is expected to sell at 57 cents per pound, which is 6 cents per pound below the five-year average for a $30 deduction per bale.
"Cotton prices have been depressed for the past couple of years. We are continuing a downward trend of cotton prices," McCarty said.
Other discounts hurt farmer's bottom line. About 14 percent of the bales produced had price discounts due to high micronaire (fiber thickness), and more than 16 percent had price discounts due to low strength. More than 20 percent were discounted due to short fiber length, and about 30 percent were discounted for color. These discounts were significantly higher than in recent years because of the drought.
"Cotton had a good start in spring 2000. It came up and grew very well, and little had to be replanted. But the hot temperatures and dry weather from July to September had a tremendous impact on the crop's quality," McCarty said.
While cotton cannot tolerate extreme heat and extreme drought, it does better under Mississippi conditions than do many other crops. Farmers who irrigated enough or received efficient rainfall had a good crop.
"Most irrigation methods supplement, not completely replace, rainfall, which hurt cotton in 2000. The drought made for low yields and low prices due to discounts. Lower production costs and light insect pressure were the only bright spots," McCarty said.
As for 2001, increased cotton acreage and reduced tillage acreage will be the high points.
"We are looking forward to 2001. While we don't think cotton prices will increase greatly, we expect Mississippi cotton acreage to increase to more than 1.3 million. We also plan to have more reduced tillage acreage, which hopefully will increase production efficiency," McCarty said.