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Cotton harvests expected to top 1,000 pounds again
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- There's no reason for cotton farmers to sing the blues this year.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said cotton harvest was nearly halfway done by the first week of October. Early yields suggest the state will average more than 1,000 pounds of cotton per acre.
Good prices provided the icing on the cake.
“A number of folks locked in when prices got to the mid-70 cents a pound,” Dodds said. “When you put a good crop on top of mid-70s prices, there’s a whole lot worse situations we could be in.”
Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist, said current cash prices are just over 67 cents a pound, but they were about 70 cents a pound at the end of September. A year ago, cotton was selling for 58 cents a pound.
“The condition and yields of the current U.S. crop and the global cotton supply are driving the market right now,” Williams said. “We saw a sharp increase in cotton acreage this year, which pushed down prices early in the year, but then concerns over the condition of the crop, especially out West, introduced a weather premium into the markets.
“Cotton really is a global crop, and while we are expecting a larger crop here in the U.S., a few other major producers globally are expecting a smaller harvest,” he said. “That has also helped to support prices lately.”
Local cotton acreage reflects the global production increase. Dodds said Mississippi had 420,000 acres, a 41 percent increase from 2015. That amount makes the state No. 3 nationally in cotton acreage, behind Texas and Georgia.
“I suspect our acres will be up again next year,” Dodds said. “Prices are decent, and we’ve picked a really good crop the last four years. Also, corn prices are less than optimal, and cotton competes for those corn acres.”
If Mississippi’s average yield does top 1,000 pounds, 2016 will be the fourth year in a row that has happened. The statewide cotton average was 1,202 pounds in 2013, a record 1,232 pounds in 2014 and 1,024 pounds in 2015.
“The only other year we averaged more than 1,000 pounds was 2004,” he said.
Dodds said recent harvest weather has been perfect.
“Folks are pushing as hard as they can push to get the cotton crop in quickly,” he said. “It’s got to be a record to have about half the cotton crop harvested by the first week of October.”
Under ideal conditions, producers are harvesting each day until the dew sets in, often quitting well after dark.
Crop challenges along the way included early rains making planting late, emergence issues when weeks of dry weather set in, and then significant disease pressure from frequent, heavy rains that fell in late July and early August.
“The two silver linings we had for the crop was that we had a relatively light plant bug year, and we’ve had as good a harvest window as we could ever ask for,” Dodds said.
Although cotton is no longer king in Mississippi, Williams said the crop continues to be important for the state.
“Last year it was the third largest row crop in the state valuewise, with the total value of production estimated to be about $250 million, right behind corn and soybeans,” he said. “Before 2007, we would consistently see more than a million acres of cotton planted in the state, but since 2007, we have only seen two years where acres topped 600,000.”