Farmers across Louisiana have planted much of the state’s cotton crop a little earlier than normal. A warm, dry spring made it possible says John Kruse, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist.

“The weather warmed up, and the soils warmed. Once the soil reached 65 degrees, the producers got very busy. They were prepared, and they got a lot of the crop in the ground very early,” Kruse said.

Louisiana is in a drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s long-term drought index, but Kruse said a few rains helped farmers find enough moisture to plant.

Cotton acres remain historically low, but acreage should be up about 10 percent over 2010 -- or around 280,000 to 290,000 acres.

“Floodwaters remain an unknown factor,” Kruse said.

Farmers would have planted more cotton acres this year if other commodities such as corn and soybeans didn’t also have strong prices. Kruse predicts more growers will plant cotton behind this year’s wheat crop.

“I think that is where the cotton acre increase is going to come. It seems the wheat is maturing early this year, and that’s a good thing if you want to double-crop – plant cotton behind wheat.”

High cotton prices also are prompting the slight increase in acreage. But the rising price may not lead to big profits for farmers.

“Everyone is focused on historically high cotton prices, and that’s good for producers. Unfortunately, production costs are creeping up behind them.”

The LSU AgCenter plants different cotton varieties in test fields around the state to provide recommendations to farmers. This year Kruse is planting 14 on-farm trials.

“This gives producers an opportunity to look at some of the best quality commercial cotton varieties that are available on the market in a natural setting.”

These trials supplement variety research conducted at LSU AgCenter research stations.