South Carolina cotton farmers prepare for high costs and a volatile market

A Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service economist says cotton growers should look at pricing some of their 2022 production if they haven’t already and locking in input costs now if they can.

Cotton futures are at a 10-year-high and a Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service economist says growers should look at pricing some of their 2022 production if they haven’t already and locking in input costs now if they can.

Nathan Smith

During the 2022 South Carolina Cotton Growers Meeting in Santee, South Carolina, Nathan SmithClemson Extension agribusiness program team director, said growers should pay attention to high prices along with high input costs and possible variable yields. Fertilizer is one input cost Smith discussed.

“Fertilizer prices are about double from where they were last year,” Smith said.

Global fertilizer prices have reached record highs, in part due to soaring prices for natural gas used in production and severe storms in the United States that disrupted production as well as supply chain disruptions.

Expenses such as crop insurance are among the other rising production costs. The final date to apply for crop insurance coverage for the 2021 crop year is Feb. 28.

Growers who are interested in protecting 2022 revenue should consider revenue coverage and the level of coverage that will cover their operating costs.

Current policyholders who wish to make changes to their existing coverage also have until the Feb. 28 sales closing date to do so.

“Growers should look at locking in input costs if they can,” Smith said before explaining how Clemson Extension Enterprise Budgets can help growers develop budgets for individual farms.

Prices appear volatile. December 2022 cotton futures were trading at 99 cents in late January., Cotton futures prices for December 2022 in the United States are up 25% from the same time period a year ago.

As for the 2022 Cotton Outlook, Smith said global cotton demand is projected to increase and U.S. cotton acres may possibly increase with some acreage previously planted in corn acres being planted in cotton instead. The United States Department of Agriculture reports 11.7 million acres of cotton planted were in 2021, down 3% from 2020.

Variety selection

Mike Jones

Mike Jones, Clemson Extension cotton specialist, said tough planting conditions coupled with low rainfall in April and early-May last year led to many fields being planted late.

“This resulted in a decrease in planted acres,” he said.

Adequate rainfall in June, July and August, and moderate heat allowed for good boll development and fiber quality. Dry weather and no major storms or hurricanes resulted in “excellent” harvest conditions.

“Record yields with excellent fiber quality and high cotton prices resulted in an outstanding year for most growers,” Jones said.

About 80% of the South Carolina cotton crop is planted the first two weeks in May. Cotton harvest begins in late September.

Before planting, producers have some important decisions to make.

“Variety selection is one of the most important decisions you as a cotton grower can make,” Jones said.

When deciding which variety to plant, Jones said “purchase quality seed.” Clemson Regulatory Services operates the South Carolina Seed Certification Program in which seed producers adhere to rigid standards for purity and germination based on laboratory analyses conducted by the S.C. Department of Agriculture Seed Lab.

As for varieties, Jones said use local experiences and variety trial data to make decisions related to variety selection.

Varieties that have performed well in the Southeast and in South Carolina are Stoneville’s ST 5091B3XF and ST 4595B3XF, Armor Seed’s Armor 9371B3XF, Delta Pine’s DP1646B2XFDP 2127B3XFDP 2115B3XF and DP 22012B3XF, and Americot’s NG 4190B3XF and NG 3195B3XF.

More new varieties are coming for the Southeast. Industry representatives from BASFAmericotBayer Crop Science and Phytogen spoke briefly about new cotton varieties coming from their companies.

In addition to variety selection, growers also should pay attention to insects and insecticide efficacy, experts said.

Insect pests are major limiting factors in producing cotton in South Carolina.

Insect pests

Jeremy Greene

Clemson entomologist Jeremy Greene advised growers to watch out for the invasive cotton seed bug, bollworm, cotton aphid and Cotton Leafroll Dwarf Virus. Information found in the Clemson Extension 2022 Pest Management Handbook can be used to help growers make pest management decisions.

Supply chain issues the country is currently experiencing may hinder access to certain pesticides. Growers who have issues obtaining insecticides used to manage these pests can consult the Pest Management Handbook or contact Greene,, for information related to alternative products.

Greene also talked about Thryvon cotton, a new Bt trait that provides season-long protection against tarnished plant bug and thrips species and may help reduce the need for some insecticide applications.

This technology is not yet available for commercial sale or commercial planting. Commercialization is dependent on multiple factors, including successful conclusion of the regulatory process.

Check with Clemson Department of Pesticide Regulation for the registration status in South Carolina.

Water quality and pesticide efficacy

William Hardee

For growers using pesticides and noticing poor pesticide performance, Clemson Extension area agronomy agent William Hardee said this can be related to certain irrigation water quality issues such as pH and water hardness.

“Research shows poor water quality can adversely influence pesticides resulting in inferior performance and the need for re-treatments,” Hardee said.

“Having water tested can help ensure costly pesticides perform as they should.”

Irrigation water quality tests can be conducted at the Clemson Ag Service Lab. For information, go to

SCATE program

Hugh Weathers

To help South Carolina growers reduce costs, Hugh Weathers, South Carolina commissioner of agriculture, said his office has started a new program, the South Carolina Agricultural Tax Exemption (SCATE) program, for individuals eligible to receive agriculture sales tax exemptions under South Carolina state law.

“South Carolina farmers can apply for the SCATE card now,” Weathers said. “A SCATE card costs $24 and is good for three years. SCATE cards can be applied for through our online portal at”

For more information about SCATE cards, email or call 803-734-2210.

In addition to these presentations, participants also heard from Carl Brown, chairman of the South Carolina Cotton Board and Kent Fountain, chairman of the National Cotton Council of America.

This information is provided by Clemson University.


Related Articles

Connect With Cotton Farming

Quick Links

E-News Sign-up