For producers across much of the Cotton Belt, February and March have been exceedingly precipitous. Parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi saw serious flooding in the 30-day span from late February to late March.
In the Mississippi Delta, home to the majority of the Magnolia State’s cotton acreage, some areas saw a foot and a half of rain during that span. A single day of downpour on March 9 dropped a solid 10 inches of rain in some places near Leland.
“I was hearing 10, 12 or 14 inches of rain at places in the Delta in early March,” says Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist, Mississippi State University. “It really just depends on where you’re located in Mississippi. I talked to some farmers in the Clarksdale area who had two or three feet of water sitting in some places.”
Speaking on March 21, Dodds said there were still some producers in the northern part of the state who would like to plant corn, but who may not have the chance. Many growers in the area have been forced to keep a wary eye on the insurance cutoff date for corn.
“They’ve still got a couple of weeks to plant corn if they want,” he said. “There was already going to be a pretty good size acreage shift (into cotton) up there regardless. We’ve just made such a good cotton crop in these areas over the past few years that folks feel like even with the lower cotton prices, they can still do as well or better with cotton than they can with some other crops.”
Dodds says he’s hearing from many farmers who are considering cotton for the first time in a long while.
“Oh yeah, I know there are several folks who are having trouble finding a ginner, because the ginners they had been going to previously are now offering $70-a-bale gin rebates,” Dodds said. “What I’ve heard is with their existing customer base, in one particular case, he’ll probably double what he ginned from last year to this year, and he can’t take on any new customers.”
Things to Consider Before Planting
For producers considering planting cotton for the first time in several years, variety selection poses its own formidable challenge. Seed companies produce an abundance of new variety options each year, each one with its own set of characteristics and data to consider.
“The biggest thing is to pick a variety that matches your land, your irrigation capabilities and your management style,” Dodds said. “Pick the best yielder for your situation. There’s enough data out there that they can find something that ought to match your situation relatively closely. Just look at as much data as you can and pick the best one for you.”
Dodds said that after variety selection, management quickly becomes the most important factor. Thrips, in particular, are a major concern early in the season.
“We all know the problems we’ve had with thiamethoxam resistance and lower thrips control,” Dodds said. “We have been seeing some slippage out of imidacloprid, and I’d hate for them to go out and plant with an imidacloprid seed treatment, think they’re bulletproof on thrips, and then come out and get smashed on thrips and hurt their yields right out of the gate.”