The cotton harvest season is well under way and what was earlier thought to be the best crop Louisiana producers have had in years has decreased sharply.

Dr. John Barnett, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist, said wet weather and terrorists attacks in the country have wreaked havoc on this year’s cotton crop.

"Earlier, in August, we thought this was going to be the best crop we’ve had since 1994," Barnett said. "At this time, it’s a below average crop."

Wet weather delayed defoliation efforts and created boll rot in many fields, Barnett said.

"Wet conditions have played a major role in this," he said. "It’s often been too wet to defoliate, and then the wet weather also leaves the cotton green so it can’t open and fluff out. We saw a lot of boll rot in central Louisiana. It’s so bad in some fields, farmers aren’t even picking."

In South Central Louisiana, producers are averaging 500-600 pounds per acre in their best fields, Barnett said. A good yield is about 1,000 pounds, or two bales, per acre.

Moving up into northeastern Louisiana, the crop is not as bad, but there is still "quite a bit of loss," Barnett said.

"Most fields in the northeastern part of the state are averaging 600-650 pounds per acre," he said. "In Tensas Parish, there are a few isolated farms that are getting 900-950 pounds per acre. But these are very isolated farms."

There have been fields that have yielded as low as 200 pounds per acre in Franklin Parish, Barnett said.

In addition to wet weather conditions, several days of the Federal Aviation Administration’s grounding of "crop duster" planes - after terrorists hijacked commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11 - also have hampered harvest efforts, Barnett said.

"This stopped the defoliation process, which kept producers out of their fields for a few days," he said.

In northwestern Louisiana, Caddo Parish auctioned off its first bale of cotton for the 2001 season Wednesday (Sept. 26). John LeVasseur, LSU AgCenter county agent for Caddo Parish, said the bale was ginned at the Gilliam Gin Co. and was owned by Dan and Steven Logan of Logan Farms.

The bale was promoted, auctioned and sold for $2,700, LeVasseur said. The cotton variety was Sure Grow 501 and was picked on Sept. 13. It was planted April 15 and ginned Sept. 14, LeVasseur said. The bale weighed 515 pounds.

Jack Dilllard, a longtime agricultural broadcaster and columnist, served as auctioneer and agricultural enthusiast to motivate the group, LeVasseur said.

According to the LSU AgCenter’s 2000 Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2,633 producers planted 690,000 acres of cotton in the state last year. The estimated farm value of the 2000 crop was $2.35 million.