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Cotton battles 2002 weather challenges
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton is facing another year of weather challenges as U.S. Highway 82 divides northern counties with plenty of rain from southern counties in need of additional moisture.
Mississippi State University Extension cotton specialist Will McCarty said the cooler temperatures in mid-May haven't helped the crop that was already off to a slow start. Most growers try to have cotton planted by May 25, but the first of June is the absolute latest growers usually plant.
"Historically, one of the biggest reasons we've tried to plant early is to avoid boll weevil and worm damage later in the season, but the boll weevil eradication program and the availability of Bt cotton (a worm-resistant variety) have helped growers extend their planting dates," McCarty said. "One reason planting early is still important is the challenge of harvesting the crop before late fall rains begin."
During the week ending May 12, the Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service estimated 70 percent of the state's cotton was planted, which was behind last year's schedule but slightly ahead of the five-year average.
McCarty said the U.S. Department of Agriculture's prediction of 220,000 fewer acres than last year, or 1.4 million total cotton acres in Mississippi, is still going to be high for the state.
"Cost of production and the price of cotton are not causing much enthusiasm for cotton this year," McCarty said.
Jerry Singleton, area cotton agent in Leflore and Carroll counties, said his area is 85 to 95 percent planted and looking good in general. Growers have sprayed fields for cutworms, but insect pressure has been light.
"Most of the wettest fields are north of Highway 8, but growers have been able to squeeze in three or four days of field work each week since late April. Planting should be finished around the third weekend in May," Singleton said. "We saw an increase in no-till and very minimal till acres in 2001 and again this year as a method of keeping production costs down. Yields from those fields tend to be near their normal levels."
The state produced 2.47 million bales in 2001, which is the second largest cotton crop on record. Mississippi produced 2.69 million bales in 1937. Last year, growers averaged 727 pounds per acre compared to 649 pounds in 2000.