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Hurricane Season Takes Top off Cotton Potential

13:13PM Oct 16, 2017

As Dan Fromme walks a cotton field near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he sees the promise and optimism from earlier in the season has been replaced by disappointment. Fromme is the cotton specialist for the LSU AgCenter. He says a wet growing season has reduced farmer’s yields in many parts of the state.

”A lot of them are kind of disgusted, so I think we might actually see acres drop off next year, especially here in central Louisiana,” said Fromme. According to the LSU AgCenter, acreage has decreased from nearly 1 million acres 15 years ago to this year’s crop of approximately 215,000 acres.

While Tropical Storm Harvey did contribute to lower yields, Fromme believes yields were already suffering from wet weather, insects and diseases.

On Thursday USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) showed cotton production was reduced by 643-thousand bales. The drop off was largely in Texas and Georgia from hurricane damage.

As Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, it decimated the cotton crop in counties that were in the direct path of the storm. The Texas Farm Bureau says just 70 percent of cotton in Matagorda county had been harvested before the storm, while only 35 percent was out of the ground in Wharton County.

The rest of the state’s cotton was spared. Unfortunately, poor weather late in the growing season has also resulted in subpar cotton yields for many Texas cotton growers. Dr.  Jourdan Bell, Texas A & M AgriLife Extension agronomist said the combination of high temperatures and sunny days have been few and far between since August.  “Across the Panhandle, cotton is in boll development; however, the maturity level of the bolls varies drastically between varieties and even between fields as a result of planting dates,” said Bell.

Meanwhile, Alabama cotton growers are still assessing the damage from Tropical Storm Nate. Dallas County farmer Wendy Yeager said damage was less than anticipated.

“I expected it to be flat on the ground,” said Yeager, whose farm looked to produce two-bale or more cotton before the storm. “God is good. This could have been so much worse. It could have all been not harvestable and on the ground.” According to the Alabama Farmer Federation, 20 percent of the bolls on Yeager’s crop was open, and more susceptible to rain and wind damaged, when Nate blew through.

The latest USDA cotton production forecast shows farmers will produce 21.1 million bales this year, down 3 percent from USDA’s September forecast. While trimmed from last month, it’s still 23 percent above last year’s levels.