2017 Looks Like a Good Year for SC Cotton Growers

2017 Looks Like a Good Year for SC Cotton Growers

By Denise Attaway, Clemson University



South Carolina cotton growers can expect to see a better year in 2017, according to a Clemson University economist.

Nathan Smith, an Extension professor and economist at Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education Center in Columbia who spoke at the South Carolina Cotton Growers’ annual meeting in January, said cotton acreage in South Carolina is expected to increase in 2017.

“Right now, the outlook for cotton going into 2017 is an improvement over 2016 in terms of price,” Smith said. “The overall expectation is for cotton acreage to increase across the Cotton Belt, especially the Mid-South and Texas. Hopefully, we’ll see more cotton acres in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.”

Figures from USDA for the 2016 South Carolina cotton crop show 190,000 acres were planted, with 184,000 acres harvested. The cotton yield in South Carolina in 2016 was 678 pounds per acre, and 260,000 bales were produced.

In addition to an increase in acreage, Smith said prices also are expected to increase.

“With cotton trading in the low 70-cent range right now, that’s encouraging growers to look a little stronger at planting cotton this year instead of corn and soybeans,” said Smith, adding he doesn’t expect any peanut acreage to be planted in cotton.

South Carolina growers who plan to plant cotton this year have several varieties from which to choose. Mike Jones, the state’s cotton specialist housed at the Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence, said new cotton varieties that have proven to produce high yields are Deltapine (Monsanto) varieties DP 1646B2XF, DP 1747NRB2XF, DP 1538B2XF and DP 1639B2XF, as well as PhytoGen (Dow AgroSciences) varieties PHY 499WRF, PHY 495W3RF and PHY 333WRF.

The Stoneville (Bayer CropScience) varieties showing high yields are ST 5020GLT and ST 4946GLB2. Americot Seed Company had two high-yielding varieties with NexGen 5007B2XF and NexGen 3522B2XF.

In his report from the 2016 cotton crop, Jones said 76% of the total cotton acreage in South Carolina was planted in new XtendFlex cotton varieties. The most popular variety was DP 1538B2XF on 26% of acreage, followed by DP 1553B2XF on 20% of acreage, DP 1646B2XF on 11% of acreage, DP 1522B2XF on 5% of the acreage, and NexGen 5007B2XF on 4% of the acreage.

“South Carolina growers are making sound cotton variety decisions, planting an estimated 79% of the state’s total acreage with the top 10 highest-yielding varieties from our Official Variety Testing program in 2016,” Jones said.

Anyone who grows cotton knows thrips are certain to make an appearance in the crop. Jeremy Greene, an entomologist at the Clemson Edisto Research and Education Center, said these are the most predictable pests in cotton.

“Cotton growers can be assured thrips will be present every year in South Carolina cotton crops,” Greene said. “Tobacco thrips are the primary species of thrips that will attack cotton. Growers can reduce risk from thrips injury by planting later in May.”

Bollworms and stink bugs were insect pests Greene addressed during the meeting. According to Greene, bollworms are controlled primarily with Bt technology in the majority of cotton planted in South Carolina, although the technology does not provide 100 percent control of the species. Growers still need to scout for and manage bollworms, as needed, Greene cautioned, particularly as issues with resistance to Bt proteins and pyrethroid insecticides increase in the future.

To aid cotton producers in their fight against insect pests, the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service has two mobile apps, both available online.

The first app is the Calibrate My Sprayer App for iOS and Android devices. This free mobile app aids in the proper calibration of spraying equipment. The second app is the Mix My Sprayer app, also for iOS and Android devices. Mix My Sprayer is a free app that aids users with quick, accurate calculations of product mixes to be applied with spraying equipment. Custom lists of favorite products by category can be created.

In addition to these topics, attendees at the meeting also heard about weed control technologies, laboratory services available from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, and updates on other research projects, including projects involving precision agriculture technology and nematode management.

Cotton planting season is almost ready to begin in South Carolina. About 80% of the state’s cotton crop is planted during the first week in May.