Weather once again played a pivotal role in Alabama’s cotton crop this season. Most notably, the southern part of the state was devastated by multiple hurricanes that reduced yields and crop quality in those areas, says Steve Brown, Alabama Extension cotton specialist.
“I think in late summer we felt like we had a pretty good crop, above average, if not extremely good. There were parts of the state, particularly north Alabama, that had maybe a five-week period of dry weather right in prime time. They were hurt clearly by that,” Brown said. “In many parts of the state, we thought we were sitting on something quite good. We’ve had four or five hurricanes and prolonged cloudy weather, lots of rain. Some of our cotton in the southern half of the state probably got 20, or even 25, 30 inches of rain on open cotton with fairly warm conditions.
“Our initial yield prediction was the upper 900-pound range. It’s been lowered. I think we’re going to be around 850. Hopefully, we won’t fall below 850, but it could be 850 to 800 pounds.”
Fiber Quality Affected Most
On some days following hurricanes, the weather will be bright and sunny and allow soils and crops to dry out. That was not the case this year especially after Hurricane Sally hit on Sept. 16. Fiber quality has been affected the most.
“The color and strength and length are probably better than I would have expected. But the glaring issue that’s going to cost us a lot of money is seed coat fragments. That’s an extraneous matter call that the human classer makes. You’re seeing it in South Georgia. Anything that the cotton is making is plagued with it. It comes from South Georgia, South Alabama, it comes from Florida,” Brown said.
“We think the easy answer as to why is all the cotton has such extended wet conditions on it and overcast conditions. We’re seeing 35%, almost 40% of the crop being penalized for seed coat fragments. It’s a sign of either the seed sprouted or just generally deteriorated and weathered. Another possibility is we’re seeing some immature seed in the upper part of the canopy. That deduction is not quite 4.5 cents per pound for level one seed coat fragment call. That’s a blow on top of a blow; from beat-down yields to quality that’s been affected.”
Brown said there were around 445,000 acres planted this year. But acreage could drop next year, especially if soybean prices continue to flourish and cotton prices do not increase much more.
“We really would like to see prices move up to plant a crop. Otherwise, there’s going to be competition for the grains and peanuts to pull acres away from cotton. We’d like to see prices move up at least to the mid-70s, we’ll see,” Brown said.