Louisiana has the lowest cotton acreage in recorded history, with the state’s farmers planting an estimated 125,000 acres this year, according to LSU AgCenter cotton specialist and entomologist David Kerns.

A decade ago the state’s farmers were planting as much as 800,000 acres of cotton.

“It boils down to economics and what the farmers can make the most money on, and cotton prices have been suppressed in recent years,” Kerns said.

At the same time, prices for corn and soybeans have been high. Kerns said those crops are less expensive to grow than cotton and come with less risk.

David Crigler, executive vice president of the Louisiana Cotton and Grain Association, is optimistic that cotton acreage will bounce back.

“Louisiana farmers are very loyal to the crop,” Crigler said. “Many attribute their successful careers to growing cotton over the years. And while a period of high grain prices has led to a decline in cotton acreage, Louisiana producers will not turn their backs on cotton.”

The downturn in acreage has led to the closing of cotton gins. Last year Louisiana had 28 active gins, down from 32 in 2011. Since the downward trend, some gins have been dismantled and the equipment sold; others are waiting for the rebound.

When acreage goes up, the existing gins could process more cotton, Crigler said.

“The ones that are operating have become more efficient over the years and will be able to handle increased volume as cotton acreage rises,” Crigler said.

The cold, damp spring slowed cotton planting. Later-planted cotton can experience more problems during the growing season.  It may develop boll rot, is more vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms, and will likely see more insect infestations.

 

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Kerns confirmed that this will be an active year for insects in cotton. He said growers are already seeing high numbers of tarnished plant bugs, the major insect pest in cotton.

“With the good, wet spring you get a lot of wild hosts for them to live off,” Kerns said.

Damage from tarnished plant bugs can result in delayed crop maturity and yield loss.

 

David Kerns can be reached at 318-435-2157 or dkerns@agcenter.lsu.edu.

 

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