Jay Hoover has never grown cotton. But, this year the Macon, Miss., long-time grains and poultry producer has planted 330 acres on ground that would’ve otherwise been in soybeans.

His sons-in-law Kevin Shirk and Andrew Shirk, who work with him and also have separate farming interests, have planted another 100 acres. They’ve also invested in a six-row cotton picker, a module builder, and other equipment to pick family cotton and to do custom harvesting for other growers in the area who want to diversify into cotton, but can’t justify the equipment investment.

While cotton acres have declined sharply or stagnated in other areas of the state, Noxubee County — which in the late 1800s was Mississippi’s leading cotton production county — and surrounding counties are seeing a resurgence of acreage.

“The three seed dealers in this area have said their seed sales indicate a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in cotton acres this year,” Hoover says.

And growers say there are reasons to believe coming years will see more land going to cotton here and in adjacent counties. Key among them:

—Rapid increases in irrigation capability. While the area doesn’t have the Delta’s easy access to groundwater, many growers have constructed lakes and catchment ponds to feed center pivot systems. Some are also drilling wells, despite the 1,000 foot-plus depths required and costs that can run $175,000 or more for the well alone.

—Cotton yields, with irrigation, are consistently more reliable than irrigated soybeans on the heavy Black Belt prairie soils.

—The spectacular results of the 2011 season, when this area had among the highest cotton yields in Mississippi, and a number of producers set all-time yield records on their farms.

—The construction, now under way, of the new $6.5 million state of the art grower-owned Bogue Chitto cotton gin at nearby Brooksville, Miss., which will begin operation this fall, offering producers much closer ginning access.

In discussions with some of the area’s leading growers at the recent groundbreaking, these comments: