While state agricultural experts are hopeful this season's yields hover near last year's tally for Tennessee, Missouri may reach new levels and Arkansas may fall well short of last year's record.
Bobby Phipps, University of Missouri cotton specialist, says favorable weather conditions early in the spring greatly benefited cotton farmers in the Bootheel. Missouri farmers harvested 862 pounds of cotton last year, a record amount.
“Crops started well early this year compared to the last two years when they started poorly early on,” Phipps said. “It has been an outstanding crop, and we should see another record this year.”
He said “evenly spaced” rains helped farmers keep weeds in check, while worms caused only minimum damage.
An unusual drop in temperatures several consecutive days in August, he added, did not set cotton production back as many farmers had feared.
The surprise cold spell, however, appears to have negatively affected cotton farming in Tennessee, according to University of Tennessee cotton specialist Chism Craig.
“It has not been a perfect season but a pretty good one,” Craig said. In addition to several cool August days and nights, he said, early rain affected cotton growth.
Last year, Tennessee's cotton yielded 806 pounds. Craig forecasted a number this season at a minimum of 700 pounds.
“We will be OK. The crops' quality looks extremely good, and we now have ideal conditions for defoliation. Hopefully, there will be good fiber, but we just have to wait and see.”
In Arkansas, University of Arkansas cotton specialist Bill Robertson says he has seen a remarkable comeback in this season's cotton.
“Last week it was hard to find any picking, but this week cotton picking looks good,” Robertson said. “The moisture in the soil is not excessive, and the defoliation programs are working great.”
So, too, he added, did a rainy spring delay cotton schedule. That setback, along with a plant bug problem that has moved to the forefront with the boll weevil eradication program, combined to put farmers at a disadvantage.
Last year, Arkansas' cotton yields totaled 916 pounds, a record.
Although USDA's September crop production report sets the yield at 903 pounds, Robertson couldn't say how much less the totals would be this season.
“Without some timely rains it could have been ugly,” he said.