Last year, the early projections indicated that Missouri would produce a new yield record at 1,164 pound per acre. Well, the agricultural community was disappointed that we only made 927 pounds per acre. However, if you look at all of the cotton producing states, we did much better than many of the traditional powerhouses for upland cotton production.
For the Mid-South which consists of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, the average yield was 806 pounds per acre. Missouri had the highest yield at 927. Tennessee was next at 843. Louisiana and Mississippi came in at 687 and 745 pounds per acre, respectively. Arkansas led the Mid-South with 852 thousand bales and was followed by Missouri at 502 thousand. However, Arkansas had 500 thousand acres harvested compared with Missouri at 260 thousand.
In the Southeast region which consists of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia, the only states that exceeded Missouri?s production were Georgia and North Carolina with 1,860 and 763 thousand bales, respectively.
For the Southwest region consisting of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, only Texas had higher production than Missouri. Texas produced 4,620 thousand bales but none of the three had yields approaching Missouri.
So Missouri producers can be proud of what they accomplished under very adverse conditions during the harvest season. At our Missouri Cotton Production and Outlook Conference held at the Delta Center in February, we learned from Robbie Seal, the Director of the Cotton Classing Division that Missouri had better grades than we expected despite all of the weather related harvest problems. With the varieties that we grow now, we have higher strength and fiber length than we did in the past. The leaf grade and color grades were better than expected.
Looking at the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending May 9, we had 51 percent of our cotton planted. This is a 35 point increase over last week?s total. This puts us at 11 percentage points better than last year and we are about the average for this date.
We have had rainy conditions, but we are better off than we were last year and we certainly are better off than Tennessee due to their massive rainfall. Tennessee producers have only planted 14 percent of their crop. Texas has only planted 27 percent of this year?s crop. However, some of the cotton planted in the Rio Grande Valley has begun squaring. I also checked on the progress of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Arkansas is leading all of our Mid-South states with 56 percent which is slightly better than their 5-year average of 51 percent. Louisiana has 65 percent of the cotton planted but they have a drought in much of the state and some producers are waiting for more rain before planting the remainder of the crop. Mississippi has also planted 51 percent of its cotton which is about average. It was noted that the Mississippi Delta producers were able to take advantage of the dryer conditions. Other areas of the state had planting delayed due to surplus moisture.
In Missouri, we have a lot going for us in cotton production. We have excellent alluvial soils and plenty of groundwater. We have had an abundance of natural moisture due to the rainfall. We have also had very good temperatures the past few days and we should have optimum temperatures during the next 10 days. There was planting and other field operations going on Thursday morning so we might get more planting done between the rains.
The good news is that with the no-till and conservation tilled fields, producers will be able to get in earlier than the conventional tilled fields. With the planting capacity of our producers, it won?t take much time to get the remainder of the cotton planted.
I was reminded earlier this week about the progress that has been made during the last twenty years in conserving our soils. I have heard many of the stories of the Mother?s Day wind storm that occurred in 1988. Highway 412 was closed due to poor visibility and seed were on top of the soil after the wind blew off the soil covering it. I have seen reminders of sand buildup along fence rows. We did have very windy conditions this past week. I was checking the insect traps that I check each week. One of the tops on the cone trap had blown off and the wire holding it was in the fence row. Yet, the only sand that I saw blowing was on the ends of the fields where there was no protection. I also saw a recently graded field that had no vegetation, but these areas were the exception rather than the rule. With the increased acreage being no-tilled or conservation tilled, hopefully we will never see blowing sand being a problem again.
Producers are optimistic about their prospects this season. With higher cotton prices and increased acreage, they should do well unless we have severe conditions during harvest. The cool nights during the past several weeks and the rainfall have been our biggest obstacles for cotton growth and development. But I have seen cotton emerging. We always have replanting but hopefully we can finish up next week.
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Dr. Michael R. Milam is an agronomy specialist and county program director with University of Missouri Extension in Dunklin County.