Rain Spoiling Georgia’s Cotton Crop

first_imgWhen rain keeps on dropping, you can’t pick very much cotton. Cottonthat gets wet loses its value. And, for Georgia farmers, that’s no reasonto whistle Dixie.”We’ve had over 20 inches of rain since Sept. 25,” said SteveBrown, a University of Georgia ExtensionService agronomist. “Rain on cotton that’s ready to harvest reallydeclines its color, its quality, its grade and makes for considerable lossesto Georgia farmers.”Brown estimates those losses to be between $50 million and $100 millionjust in quality factors alone in the 1997 Georgia crop. The crop has alreadybeen damaged by late-summer drought and insects.Last year, Georgia ranked third in the nation’s cotton production, behindTexas and California, bringing in more than 2 million bales from nearly1.35 million acres harvested.”Statistics indicate that we still have harvested only about 77 percentof our crop, compared to the more than 90 percent normally harvested atthis time,” Brown said. “Almost 25 percent of the crop is still in thefield and farmers are really pushing to get it out.”Continued rainy weather is halting the harvest.”A lot of folks are discouraged,” Brown said. “Fields are so wet, it’sgoing to take considerable drying before they can get back in and harvest.”Patience has always been the hallmark of prudent farmers, and this yearis no different.”Keep plugging,” Brown advised. “When you get days of sunshine thatallow you back in the field, try to make the most of it. Get just as muchcotton as absolutely possible.”Getting in the field is a cinch.ÿ Getting out of the field is asticky and expensive problem for farmers.”Most farmers who have picked cotton the past few weeks have been stucknumerous times, too many to count,” Brown said. “There is so much incentiveto get in the field.ÿ And yet when you get stuck, there’s a lot ofmachinery that can be bent and twisted and damaged. So it’s a trade- off.”Dry weather is still a ways off as rain still dominates the forecast.”It just means more delayed harvest,” Brown said. “We’re going to seecotton harvested well into January, I suspect, in some areas of the state.”Mother Nature did keep Jack Frost at bay until mid-November, which Brownsays is the best farmers can hope for.”The cool weather really hasn’t been positive or negative,” he said.”We didn’t get an early October freeze. That would have killed us.ÿBut not seeing cold weather until mid-November in most places in Georgiaprobably helped us.ÿ The plants were able to make a little more cottonthat we otherwise would have lost.”Despite widespread drought, last year’s state average production was747 pounds per acre. Since August, this year’s crop estimates have beencoming down, down, down, Brown said. The latest USDAestimate, released Dec. 10, predicts a harvest of 662 pounds per acre inGeorgia.”We could wind up with an average of 100 pounds below last year,” hesaid. “It may even be more than that.”last_img

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