By Denise Attaway, Clemson University
After rain damaged it in the last two years, this looks to be a bumper year for the South Carolina cotton crop, just as a Clemson University economist predicted before planting even began.
Mike Jones, South Carolina cotton specialist housed at the Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education Center, said 250,000 acres of cotton were planted in the state this year, up from 190,000 last year. Jones said this year’s crop could produce record yields if the weather holds out.
“Right now, we’re predicting 960 pounds per acre,” said Jones during the Clemson Pee Dee REC Field Day. “I’ve been driving around and talking with (Clemson) county agents in the cotton-growing counties. I haven’t seen nor heard of a bad crop in the state this year.”
Jones credits this year’s bumper crop to the weather.
“Summer temperatures were more moderate,” Jones said. “We’ve also gotten good, timely rainfall most of the growing season. Moderate temperatures and adequate rainfall, combined, have resulted in favorable conditions for an outstanding cotton crop in South Carolina this year.”
The state’s cotton crop dodged Hurricane Irma for the most part and just suffered minimal damage, Jones said.
During the South Carolina Cotton Growers’ annual meeting in January, Nathan Smith, Extension professor and economist at the Clemson Sandhill Research and Education Center, predicted the South Carolina cotton crop would increase this year.
Prior to 2017, the highest-yielding cotton crop in South Carolina was 955 pounds per acre in 2012. Other high-yielding years were 2014 with 912 pounds per acre, 2010 with 898 pounds per acre, 2008 with 896 pounds per acre and 2004 with 875 pounds per acre. The USDA rates the South Carolina cotton crop at 98% good to excellent, which has never happened in South Carolina.
About 80% of the South Carolina cotton crop is planted the first week in May. Cotton harvest begins in late September. USDA reports that 73% of cotton bolls in the state were open as of September 24. Some South Carolina fields have already been picked and filled with modules to be taken to gin yards. Harvesting and ginning are expected to be in full force in the next few weeks.