Frequent rains during September and continuing into October have kept cotton farmers out of their fields and have jeopardized the crop, according to Don Boquet, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist.

“Anything that delays harvest will reduce both yield and quality of the cotton.”

Boquet said farmers are seeing boll rot and staining of the fibers. “During wet periods, mold will grow on it. Tannins from the seed will stain it so that means it’s not as good as it otherwise would be.”

Rain also can knock the lint to the ground so it can’t be harvested. Wet fibers become weathered and weakened and can break during ginning.

Rain is forecast for most of the week of Oct. 5, and this will continue to reduce the quality of the crop and delay the harvest.

Weather has been a challenge this growing season, Boquet said. Conditions were wet when cotton went into the field in the spring. Then a midsummer drought affected some fields. Now farmers are hoping the weather will cooperate so they can complete the harvest.

Gins, which normally would be busy this time of the year, delayed opening until more of the crop was harvested.

Cotton has a long growing season, which makes it a risky crop to grow.

“Cotton can make a lot of money in a good year, but in a bad year it can lose a lot of money. So that’s why farmers are reluctant to plant it, and they plant grain crops instead.”

With 230,000 acres, Louisiana has the smallest cotton crop in recorded history. Boquet says problems with weather patterns this year are discouraging for farmers, but better prices could keep acreage from dropping even lower.

“If we could successfully harvest this crop, I think we could be back with equal acreage or a little more acreage next year because the price is probably going to go up in cotton.”

Boquet estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the crop is still in the field.

Last year’s cotton crop had a gross farm value of $122 million, according to the LSU AgCenter’s summary report for 2008.