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Cotton produces near-average crop
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- There are always exceptions from one field to another, but Mississippi's cotton should produce near the five-year average despite the summer's drought, mostly because irrigated land boosted yields.
Mississippi farmers will harvest 1.21 million acres of cotton, which is about 10,000 acres more than last year. The predicted yield average is 833 pounds per acre, which is just under last year's yield and the five-year averages of 859 pounds and 869 pounds, respectively.
“We are doing pretty well to produce near the five-year average this year,” said Tom Barber, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Barber said the harvest benefited from dry weather similar to conditions during most of the growing season. Rains that started the third week of October slowed harvest of the final 10 percent of the crop. Unlike the 2005 crop, hurricanes did not rob yields in any Mississippi fields this year.
“Furrow irrigation helped yields even more than we realized it would,” Barber said. “Some of the dryland cotton did OK or at least better than we thought it would. In spite of the drought, the sunny days and cool nights helped retain fruit.We had more fruiting positions filled but lacked the top crop we had last year.”
Barber described 2006 as an expensive production year beginning with the need to replant a significant portion of the early crop. With fuel costs nearly double past years' prices, farmers endured increased costs for fertilizer, irrigation pumps and tractor use.
Steve Martin, agricultural economist at MSU's Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said cotton market watchers anticipated better prices all year, but they never came.
“Instead, prices have declined all year, partly because the 2006 crop has been better than expected,” Martin said. “Demand in general has not been as good, but it's still better than two or three years ago. At this rate, we are going to end up with larger stocks, and prices will continue to suffer.”
Martin said December futures are around 50 cents per pound. For Mississippi farmers, the spot market price is in the low to mid-40 cent per pound range.
“The loan rate, which guarantees farmers their minimum price, is 52 cents. That is similar to what farmers got last year and we had hoped for the mid-50s at least this year,” Martin said. “In addition to increased fuel costs, farmers will have smaller yields for basically the same market price.”