There’s good news and bad news about the cool weather that followed Isidore-related rains that drenched the Missouri Bootheel Thursday.
The good news is that cool temperatures are not conducive to cotton germinating in the bolls, a malady which affected many Mid-South farmers in 2001. On the other hand, cool temperatures don’t dry up wet soils as quickly as growers would like.
Southeast Missouri growers received only 2 inches of rain on Sept. 26, the day that Isidore rolled up through Mississippi and into west Tennessee, pushing heavy rains in front of it. But it was a slow, steady, all-day affair without much runoff.
“It’s going to be about mid-week before we get back in the field,” said Bobby Phipps, Extension cotton specialist at the University of Missouri’s Delta Center in Portageville. “It’s good and wet. It’s a big setback.”
USDA is projecting a 790-pound yield for the Bootheel “which is very high for us,” Phipps said. “But I think this weather has probably knocked it down a little and it’s going to spot the cotton of course. But we’ve had some reports of some good yields.”
The cost of producing the Bootheel crop “has been a killer,” according to Phipps. “You go down to Mississippi and see the weeds. You come up here and we have the insects. It seems like we traded places.
“We had about $80 in costs for controlling tobacco budworms and we had to make an additional spray for thrips,” the specialist said. “It’s been a really pricey year for us. But we have a nice enough crop.”
“We haven’t had much Bt cotton,” Phipps added. “But there will be more next year.”
“After a 4-inch rain fell in west Tennessee on Sept. 20, our picking efficiency went down a lot,” said Chism Craig, Extension cotton specialist for west Tennessee. “It took it a while to fluff back out. After this rain (Thursday), we think growers will get back in the field Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Prior to the rains, west Tennessee had classed almost 3,000 bales of cotton and “we were running 70 to 80 percent 11s and 21s,” Craig said. “But our color quality is going to go down considerably after this rain.
“Another thing that scares me is we have a lot of cotton in bottoms. When rivers and tributaries like the Forked Deer and the Hatchie get out of their banks, we have a lot of cotton that gets under water. The standing water could leave some mud on the cotton.”
Craig says around 10 percent of the west Tennessee crop had been picked prior to the rains. Because planting dates are staggered over a month and a half, west Tennessee will need at least a month of open weather to complete harvest. “We’re going to be picking some of this cotton for a while.”
Craig says yields in west Tennessee will end up near average. “I don’t expect it to be near the crop we had last year. We have some areas of the state that are going to do well, especially in the southern part of the state. But where we have the most cotton – Crockett and Haywood – some of them hurt for rain early in the year, and they’re going to see some yield loss.”