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Weather Challenges State's Cotton Planting
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton planting is progressing slower and more challenging than some growers would like, especially in areas that have required replanting.
"Flash flooding, heavy rains and hail are causing more replanting decisions than normal for Mississippi growers, and those who planted early have suffered the most," said Dr. Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Overall, cotton planting is progressing a little slower than we would like."
The state's cotton had a very "non-uniform start," McCarty said.
"There are areas in South Mississippi still waiting for a rain, and they are too dry to plant; there are other areas waiting to dry out so they can finish planting the first time or to replant," McCarty said.
The Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service rated the state's crop at 78 percent planted as of May 16, which was about 10 percent behind the five-year average.
"Even though the planting is close to the average, it is not as far along as we would like," McCarty said. "Ideally, we would plant the first half of May, but this year, we've spread the planting out over a six-week period.
"What is bothersome is that only 58 percent of the crop is rated as good or better," McCarty said. "The healthier the seedlings are, the better their chances for a top yield. Cotton is a very resiliant plant, so it is much too early to make yield predictions."
Mississippi growers should reach or exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture prediction of a 1.1 million acre cotton crop. Growers will continue to plant and replant cotton until the first of June, and then may shift planting intentions to soybeans.
McCarty said some fields with severe damage from sand blown against the plants may need replanting.
"Sand blasting is historically not a widespread problem for us. However, problems do occur to some degree each year. Unfortunately, this is a year with problems," McCarty said. "We have had several weather events across the state that have produced severe damage. In fact, there is the possibility that some 3,000 to 5,000 acres may be replanted due to the effects of sand damage. This replant figure could go higher as temperatures increase and wind driven sand damage continues to build."
Windy conditions are normal for this time of year and damage from blowing sand can be cumulative and detrimental to cotton seedlings. Blowing sand can open wounds in the plant tissue which allow pathogens access. Wind driven soil particles may even carry herbicide residue directly into the plant tissue.