Rainfall Needed for Georgia Cotton

Clint Thompson Georgia

Cotton plants in a field in Tift County.

By Clint Thompson

Georgia cotton is in the ground. It just needs water to help spur growth.

The Georgia Cotton Commission and University of Georgia Extension Cotton Team encourage producers with irrigated fields to stay on top of their water needs, especially as the drought continues.

Camp Hand

“For the irrigated guys, once you fall behind, it’s extremely difficult to catch up. Just don’t fall behind,” said Camp Hand, University of Georgia (UGA) Extension cotton agronomist.

All of South Georgia has gone from extremely wet conditions in May to extremely dry in June. According to the UGA Automated Weather Network, Tifton, Georgia received 0.79 inches of rain from June 1 to June 20, compared to 5.32 inches last year. Albany, Georgia, was even worse, collecting 0.14 inches of rainfall during that same timeframe, compared to 8.54 inches last year.

“I did do some traveling (Thursday) over to Midville, and in the Coffee County area, Ben Hill County, and that cotton is pretty thirsty in some spots. In the north part of Georgia, Morgan County, Oconee County type area, they hadn’t gotten rain in three weeks. They need it bad. In South Georgia, we’re a little bit better off than that, but we’re not far off,” Hand said. “It’s getting to the point on some of our earlier planted stuff that if we don’t get something, it could get bad. But we’re not to that point yet. It’s dry, but we’re optimistic that there’s some chances in the forecast for most of South Georgia next week. We’re going to be optimistic.”

Approximately half of the cotton acreage is planted in a dryland field with no access to irrigation. That makes rainfall a must for a lot of growers.

“If it’s hot enough and (the plants) are coming up, it could potentially kill them. If you didn’t plant into good moisture, they could wither up and die,” Hand said. “I’d say the majority of our crop is probably squaring now. By the end of this week, we’ll be close to 50% squaring. Once we start blooming is when it gets really vital. We’ve got to start catching rains and keeping the water on it whenever we start blooming. That’s whenever it starts filling those bolls out and stuff like that.”