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As this year's crop season inches closer to harvest, farmers in many regions of the Cotton Belt are hoping for a warm and dry September so that cotton can reach its full maturity. Southeast Editor Amanda Huber says that is the mood of most farmers in her region. In her Web Exclusive report for this month, she takes a closer look at crop progress in South Carolina and Georgia.
ASE Farmers Hoping For Dry, Sunny Weather
It just doesn't seem right to complain about too much rain – even in this unusually wet year. But, if you could listen in, you might find a lot more Southeast producers praying for sunshine than ever before.
As late season approaches, the questions abound on how much of this crop will be harvested, what will the yield be and how much of it will be abandoned?
Will Contracts Be Fulfilled?
Don Shurley, University of Georgia Extension cotton economist, says in his report, Cotton Marketing News, that USDA's August estimate for the U.S. crop was 13.05 million bales – the first estimate based on actual farmer surveys for 2013 and 500,000 bales below the July estimate.
"There seems to be a growing feeling that this crop might get smaller," he says.
"The Southeast, Georgia and the Carolinas especially, are already soaked. Georgia's yield is likely affected by disease and weed pressure, standing water and a lack of timely operations. If the wet pattern we've been in since June continues into harvest time, we'll really be in trouble. Growers are already concerned about not being able to deliver on bale contracts."
Numbers Don't Lie
Mike Jones, Clemson University Extension cotton agronomist, says that South Carolina's cotton crop was significantly affected by too much rainfall from the beginning, and the end must be in jeopardy for many producers.
"Planting was initially delayed due to wet soil conditions, which caused the crop to have delayed maturity from the beginning of the season," Jones says. "Most of South Carolina has received record amounts of rainfall throughout the growing season, which has caused significant problems with grower timeliness of management practices."
Jonathan Croft, Extension agent for Orangeburg County, says that as of Aug. 29, 2013, the official rainfall data listed for Orangeburg annual precipitation was 47.31 inches, which is 15 inches above the average yearly rainfall total for this time of year.
"There have been local amounts exceeding this; I would estimate up to 55 inches in some areas," Croft says. "There is a wide range in the condition of the crop and yield potential."
Problems Start to Finish
Jones says most growers had problems with fertility due to delays in getting initial nitrogen applications out, and tremendous rainfall on sandy coastal plain soils has caused deficiencies in most nutrients but especially nitrogen and potassium issues.
"On top of that," Jones says, "waterlogged conditions impeded proper root development, which is still a concern as we approach cutout. As of today, the crop has improved slightly, but it is late and will require good late-season weather to salvage the crop, if possible."
Overall, Croft says his producers will be doing good to see a county average of one bale to the acre in Orangeburg County.
"Individual farm average yields are going to vary greatly as some areas were hit harder than others," he says. "In the last week, I have started seeing a lot of this poor cotton that has cut out starting to open."
Amanda Huber is Southeast Editor for Cotton Farming and resides in Bronson, Fla. Contact her at email@example.com or (352) 486-7006.