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Cotton crop breaks yield record again
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Superior varieties, few pests and cooperative weather helped the 2004 cotton crop exceed last year's record-setting yields.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the 2004 state average yield to be 1,000 pounds of lint per acre, up from 932 pounds per acre in 2003. Mississippi producers planted 1.1 million acres of cotton in 2004 and harvested 1.09 million acres.
"We're looking at another record-breaking year with big-time acreage yields," said Tom Barber, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. "That's good for us, considering the heavy rainfall early in the season. Now we're trying to pinpoint what's boosting the yield so we can continue or increase those practices."
The likely main cause is transgenic cotton varieties that have good yield potential and help protect against bollworms and budworms. A light bollworm year contributed to the crop's success.
"The Boll Weevil Eradication Program has really helped us out. If we still had to worry about the boll weevil, we wouldn't have the potential we do now," Barber said.
Ideal weather also boosted the quality of this year's crop.
"Daily maximum temperatures in July and August were a lot cooler than in years past. Mild harvest season temperatures helped with the yield and quality of the crop," Barber said. "A lot of the cotton didn't get a drop of rain once the bolls opened, and that helps a lot on quality."
It isn't all good news for the cotton crop. The estimated value of production for the 2004 cotton crop is $597 million, down about 14 percent from 2003.
Extension economist Steve Martin said this price decrease is a result of an increase in production in the United States, as well as the rest of the world. Globally, 112 million bales of cotton were produced.
"This is a pretty significant price drop. Last year, we had the opportunity to sell at 70 to 80 cents per pound of lint. This year, producers will be receiving the loan rate of 52 cents," Martin said. "We're talking about a 20-cent decline, or a reduction of 25 percent to 30 percent per pound of lint."
Martin said prices in the 60- to 65-cent range typically are considered break-even. The lowest prices in recent history came in 2001 at about 28 cents per pound of lint.
Despite the price slump, Barber expects cotton acreage to remain steady in 2005.
"When we look forward to a new year of management decisions, variety selection and soil fertility levels are the top two things to think about," Barber said. "Select varieties that provide quality as well as yield potential, because quality is driving our market. We need to produce the quality foreign markets want by looking at quality-producing characteristics like we haven't before."