Soggy cotton causing costly problems for farmers

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

CARAWAY, AR (KAIT) - I was in West Mississippi county and East Craighead today. A lot of fields you pass have standing water in the rows.

And there are still lots of fields of corn and beans to harvest.

What you don't see and what you should, are cotton pickers, picking the fluffy white stuff.

With all this rain a lot of cotton could get rotten.

Rolling out a cotton picker now simply proves it will start. This year's cotton harvest is way behind.

Mississippi County Extension agent Blake McClelland met me at a field that had already been de-foliated, too soon apparently. He said much of Mississippi county is running late.

"Oh, three weeks late. There should be some people picking by now and the gins should be running and it's almost October. "

Brandon Finch who farms around Caraway hasn't even started defoliating his 3 thousand acres yet and it's going to cost them.

Finch, "For every day it looks like this you're losing money. I got a report from a scout this morning that a couple of my fields will take a 200 pound loss already on boll rot."

The rains mean farmers can't defoliate, which means a lot of leaves to keep moisture in.

McClellan, "There's a lot of moisture toward the bottom of the plant. Which is causing boll rot to develop and a lot of the bottom bolls are not going to be able to be picked."

Another problem that is rain associated is hard lock. A little bit of rain gets into a slightly split open boll....

McClellan, "Where the lint will not fluff out and more than likely it won't get picked and if it does get picked and it's in there for grades it gets a lower grade."

That could add up to thousands of dollars lost profits on a crop that is already expensive to grow. Some farmers had to replant once or twice.

Finch, "We've had an expensive year treating the insects. But when you're sitting in October you know the trends are going to be bad."

And if the weather doesn't clear up, what's going to happen when you've got 3 or 4 crops that still need to be harvested and all at the same time.

McClellan, "They're going to be trying to gather their soybeans and cut their corn all at the same time they are trying to pick their cotton."

That means a lot of fuel, and lots of man hours which all adds up to money they may or may not get back in profit.

For now the cotton picker goes back into the shed as the rainy days move into October.

Finch, "On a normal year I would be picking cotton or very close too it."

Finch told me that he needed a week of sunshine and 80 degree temps to dry out the fields and defoliate, then of course very little rain till harvest is over.


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