Cotton acreage in Louisiana is expected to increase this year by 10 percent to 12 percent over last year, says LSU AgCenter cotton specialist Dr. John Barnett. The anticipated number of acres planted with cotton in 2001 is estimated at 760,000 acres to 770,000 acres, Barnett said, adding that there is a possibility cotton acreage could increase even more — to as much as 800,000 acres.

“In 2000, an estimated 2,633 farmers planted 690,000 acres of cotton in Louisiana,” Barnett said. “This is an increase of more than 80,000 acres compared to the 1999 crop. On the other hand, lint yield per acre was an estimated 633 pounds, which was down 74 pounds from 1999.”

The estimated on-farm value of the 2000 crop, including seed, was $235 million, he said.

“This is substantially less than previous years, when the state cotton crop has been valued at as much as $500 million,” Barnett said. “Cotton, however, remains one of the three major row crop grown in Louisiana — the others being sugar and rice.”

The anticipated increase in acreage this year is because of depressed markets in most major row crops grown in Louisiana and optimism in regard to the recently implemented Boll Weevil Eradication program, Barnett said.

“The Boll Weevil Eradication program has been very successful in the first full year in the northeastern section of the state,” he said. “The program is nearing completion in the Red River region of the state and has almost totally eradicated the boll weevil from that cotton-growing area.”

However, on the down side, escalating production costs and low prices for 2001 perpetuate an already difficult situation for producers, he said.

Transgenic or genetically altered varieties that possess weed and/or insect resistance constituted close to 90 percent of the varieties planted in 2000. This trend is expected to continue in 2001, Barnett said, adding that the use of reduced tillage methods to produce cotton has become widespread in recent years and will likely increase in 2001.

A survey of Louisiana cotton producers conducted in 2000 revealed that LSU AgCenter programs targeted toward variety development were considered to be the most pressing need, Barnett said.

“Cotton continues to be one of the three most important row crops in Louisiana,” he said. “Indications are that acreage will again increase in 2001, perhaps bringing cotton back to its former position as the No. 1 row crop in Louisiana.”

Transgenic varieties will continue to be planted on a high percentage of the acreage, according to Barnett, who said the boll weevil eradication effort will continue in 2001 and should sustain another very successful season.

“Variety selection will be the key component of a successful cotton production program in 2001,” he said. “A good yield in the fall starts with planting the best-suited variety in the spring.”

Irrigation may again be a critical component of increasing yields and maintaining profitability in 2001. After the extremely dry conditions of 1998, 1999 and 2000, producers are more concerned with irrigation techniques than ever before, he said.

“Irrigation consistently increased yields in 2000,” Barnett said. “So irrigated acres are expected to increase in 2001.”

Questions about irrigation and drainage can be answered by calling Bill Branch, irrigation and drainage specialist at the LSU AgCenter's Scott Research/Extension Center in Winnsboro. Branch can be reached at 318-435-2908 or by e-mailing bbranch@agctr.lsu.edu.

In addition to the irrigation specialist, several other specialists are located at the center to provide quicker response to problems facing cotton producers in 2001, Barnett said. Among those located at the Winnsboro facility are specialists in weed science, pest management, soil fertility and cotton production. For information, call the Scott Center at 318-435-2902.

John Barnett can be contacted by phone at 318-435-2908 or by e-mail at jbarnett@agctr.lsu.edu.


A. Denise Coolman with the LSU AgCenter can be reached at dcoolman@agctr.lsu.edu.