Alabama cotton producers are nearing one month of harvest. After many early season delays, dastardly weather at the end of October and some difficult field conditions, producers are ready to hit the field and bring in the crop.
Alabama Cooperative Extension System Cotton Agronomist Steve Brown said Alabama’s cotton crop is the proverbial mixed bag — including everything from hard lock and boll rot to 1- and 2-bale cotton.
“Thankfully we are expecting some better weather after the rains that pounded cotton fields in late October,” Brown said. “I think I speak for farmers across the state who are ready to get with it this week and bring the cotton in.”
A Look at Cotton Statewide
In August, producers had high hopes for 1,000-pound or better cotton yields. Heavy and ill-timed rains, crop issues and now harvest delays have added insult to injury. U.S. Department of Agriculture reports in August and September estimated Alabama’s crop yields at 924 pounds per acre, but the October number was reduced to 909 pounds.
Brown said his yield estimate is in the 800- to 850-pound range with approximately 30% of the crop already harvested.
“In many fields the bottom crop is gone, and of course boll rot, hard lock and stink bug damage are present,” he said. “I have seen a few good fields. In others the top crop is showy, but there is little cotton to be picked below the knee.”
South Alabama and parts of the southwestern part of the state have really sustained significant damage to the cotton crop. In contrast, Brown said there is some good cotton scattered in southeast Alabama.
“Cotton in the Tennessee Valley is looking promising, so it may have a better outlook overall,” he said. “We will root for the Tennessee Valley to bring up our state average as their crop is ginned.”
“Everything looks better in the sunshine,” Brown said. “Urgency to bring cotton in overshadows frustrations with the state of the crop.”
Although producers may be expecting less-than-desirable yields as they begin picking, there are better pockets tucked throughout the fields that are a balm for producers frustrated with the season’s prospects.
Cotton prices have been consistently good for the for the first time in several years. Nov. 1 market prices were $1.14 per pound, up from 79 cents per pound in January.
“The prices are good if producers can make the crop to cash in on it,” Brown said. “Early reports show that the weather had negative effects on quality and color.”
He said each weather issue has diminished fiber quality and color, as is to be expected. Fiber strength is down as well.
“Every day of sunshine will help sustain the final crop in both yield and quality,” he said. “But it will also help the farmers’ spirits as they continue picking.”
“Things tend to brighten up with sunshine,” Brown said. “This is the crop we’ve got so it is time to go get it.”
Alabama Cooperative Extension contributed this article.