Despite all the early-season roadblocks thrown up for Mid-South farmers by the weather gods, this year's cotton crop still has potential for good to above-average yields, according to area ginners.

Incessant, record-setting rains in June, followed by more rain in early July, had a lot of farmers singing the blues, and resulted in a lot of shallow-rooted cotton plants, members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association reported at their summer conference at Lafayette, La.

But wet fields soon dried out under a hot July sun, and crops in many areas were being irrigated as the month moved along.

Among the brightest prospects for 2004 are for the Missouri Bootheel, according to David Blakemore. “We had 388,000 planted acres,” he says, “and 105 percent of that is good to excellent.

“I've never seen a crop looking this good this early. A lot of the cotton is two weeks early, and we may be ginning some of it in August. The Bootheel is showing prospects for good crops across the board. Everyone's looking forward to a good fall harvest season.”

Chris Clegg echoed much the same situation for West Tennessee. “We've got a good crop so far. We've had very timely rains, and it looks like we have potential for average to above-average cotton yields.

“A lot of the crop has shallow root systems, and if it gets a lot of drought stress, that can show up in reduced yields this fall. But as things look right now, we're hoping for a bit above average crop.”

In Arkansas, says John Stuckey, farmers in the northeast area planted three to four weeks earlier than last year, with only a small amount of replanting required. “It's a relatively clean crop, with a two-bale potential.”

Unfortunately, Stuckey says, crops in other areas of the state were significantly hurt by the heavy rains. “Overall, those growers are probably looking at a good to average crop.”

Louisiana growers are “cautiously optimistic” about cotton prospects, according to John T. Carroll.

“Recent weather has been good, a lot of people managed to get nitrogen applications made, and the crop is looking better. When all's said and done, I think we're looking at an average crop statewide.”

Many areas of Mississippi got 20-plus inches of rain the last three weeks of June, says George King. “Some areas were hurt, but the last few weeks have brought favorable weather over most of the region. With no more weather adversities from here on out, I think we have potential for an average crop.”