Region 8 Cotton Crop Way Behind Schedule

October 1, 2003 -- Posted at 5:20 P.M.

Craighead County, AR -- Cotton farmers in Region 8 are a little nervous about this year's crop. Right now, they are nearly a month late for their harvest, and unless the weather warms up soon, with no more rain, it could mean reduced yields and poor grade fiber.

"The cotton bolls aren't open yet and won't be open for another two weeks," says Craighead county farmer Kevin Hoke. "By this time of year those leaves should be in the dirt, the bolls should be open, and the pickers should be running full bore."

According to Hoke the cotton harvest is 3 weeks behind. "I've been farming for 18 years and this is the latest I've ever had a crop," says Hoke.

Experts say this cool spell we've been enjoying the past few weeks is to blame, because the defoliate only works in hot weather, so the leaves aren't falling off.

"That's what our big problem is right now, the temperatures are absolutely killing us," complains Hoke. "It costs the same amount to defoliate this crop under good conditions as it does bad, yet it doesn't work for us."

County extension agent Steve Culp says, "The rainy, cool weather has really benefited rice, and corn, and to a certain degree, soybeans, but cotton has caught it on the chin."

And unless the cotton fields get some hot and sunny days, the year in cotton could be a goner.

"We're just walking such a tight rope financially. We just don't need any more detrimental things going on and this is just one more nail in the coffin," says Hoke.

Farmer Hoke says, on the bright side, cotton prices are the highest he's seen in four years, but they are still well below his cost of production.