For many Delta producers, the smell of spring this year means the smell of freshly tilled soil. With the 2002 growing season one of the wettest on record, growers were forced to harvest in wet, sloppy field conditions, resulting in rutted fields. That has meant increased tillage operations across the region in 2003 to repair the damage caused in 2002.

Right now, things are really slow with cotton planting in Arkansas. “We're getting some nice, warm days,” says Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension cotton specialist. “But those are sandwiched between some really cold, wet days. You go out in shirtsleeves one day and the next you need a heavy coat.”

Robertson believes it will be a while before “we get the soil temperatures we need to plant cotton. There will be farmers out planting as soon as the fields dry up enough — they'll be out with planters as soon as (the week of April 14).

“As far as I'm concerned, looking at weather forecasts, it may be the following week at the earliest before soil temperatures are warm enough. The ground is still cold. If I didn't have many acres to cover, I'd wait until after Easter before putting seed in the ground.”

As expensive as cottonseed is, Robertson says, getting off to a good start is imperative.

“Soil temperatures need to be 68 degrees mid-morning at 2 inches deep for three consecutive days. When planting, we also recommend that there's a favorable five-day forecast,” he says.