Midsouth Cotton: More Last-Minute Acreage Decisions Than Usual – AgFax

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Owen Taylor, Editor
    Laykyn Rainbolt, Contributing Editor

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Midsouth Cotton, sponsored by
    the Midsouth Cotton Team of AMVAC Chemical Corporation.

    CRANKING UP 2020

    Here is your first issue of AgFax Midsouth Cotton for 2020. This marks the start of its 26th season. Significantly for our company, this year also is the 30th anniversary of when we launched our very first newsletter…a fax report covering cotton in California (back when that state planted more than a million acres a year).

    Our thanks to the Midsouth field staff of AMVAC for once again signing on as the exclusive sponsor of our 2020 coverage, both in the Midsouth and the Southeast.

    Also, you will notice a new name on our editorial staff, Laykyn Rainbolt. Laykyn is a junior majoring in ag communications (and animal science) at the University of Arkansas. She will be learning the ropes here and picking up a number of duties with us ahead of her senior year.

    She grew up in Marshall, Arkansas, where her family raises cattle. Laykyn is enthusiastic about putting all of her ag studies to use as she transitions into writing about field crop production.



    More adjustments are being made than usual to those last-minute decisions about what to plant. Even before the pandemic caught everyone’s attention, few options looked good.

    Cotton acres for many growers will be flat to down, based on what our contacts reported this week. At one point, several reported, it sounded like cotton acres might have inched up a bit compared to 2019. But that’s not the reality now.

    Corn will be up, although rainy weather has delayed field work and the preferred planting window for corn is closing. So, some of that acreage will slightly pump up soybean acres, which still might be down through the region.

    Rice and peanuts are bright spots, or as bright as you might expect.



    Scott Gifford, Gifford Crop Consulting, Manila, Arkansas:

    “We’ve been trying to burn down fields between the rains and standing water. We started planting our rice, soybeans and corn yesterday (4/7). Hardly any fieldwork has been done on any crop. In the last three days it dried up, and we got some warm temperatures. If it stays dry by the end of the week, we’ll be wide open on corn, soybeans and rice.

    “Rice acres have increased substantially. Rice is replacing a lot of soybean acres for me. The choice is a no-brainer when you look at the price of rice versus the price of soybeans. Cotton acres have not changed. For some of my growers with cotton ground, it has to be cotton for one reason or another.

    “In rice, we won’t do much differently this year. I do think we’re going to be a good deal more aggressive on the front end with herbicides, trying to prevent some of this grass and red rice from coming up. But the overall way we treat the crop will be about the same as it was last year.

    “We mostly plant hybrid rice, and seeds that people desire are more available this year than last year, and more of what everyone wants is on hand.”


    Andy Graves, Graves Agronomy Service, Clarksdale, Mississippi:

    “As far as acreage goes, I thought earlier that we probably would be close to where we were with cotton last year, along with a little bit more corn. But now, we’re definitely going to have more corn, and I’ve got a lot going in the ground right now (4/7).

    “However, this rain might have ended most of that additional corn planting. Overall, we had about four planting days. I’m hearing in some situations that farmers are backing off cotton a little and going to soybeans because it’s the least amount of risk, considering where all the commodity prices are right now.


    “I’m in a big cotton area. My growers are set up for cotton. Most of them have more than one round-module picker and all of them are involved in some way with a gin, and you can’t just shut all that down. They’re going to grow cotton, and they know they’re guaranteed loan. We just hope for the best — make a pretty good and cheap crop, and maybe the prices will come up.

     “I’ll still have a lot of cotton, but I am going to have a few more soybeans and corn than last year.”


    Bob Griffin, Griffin Ag Consulting, Jonesboro, Arkansas:

    “We are doing quite a bit of work in the field, and it just really started (4/7). An unbelievable number of farmers are putting up rows, and a lot of them had the planter following the bedders. Plenty of corn is going in the ground right now.

    “It’s been wet. Several farms have already had 25 inches of rain since January 1. Last year, we ended up with 72 inches, which is at least 25 inches above normal.

    “As of right now, everyone is finishing their burndown applications. Most burndown treatments are going out with an airplane as opposed to ground because it’s been so wet. Growers are putting out fertilizer, too, and disking if they’ve got ruts leftover from last year.

    “Bean planting, if it hadn’t already started, will follow shortly. Within the next two weeks, I’d say, they’ll start planting cotton. If it doesn’t rain here in the next couple of days, they will be going wide open on planting corn. And the amazing thing with all these planters is, they will have the corn planted in a couple of weeks. We could be through planting everything in three to four weeks. I have farmers who can plant between 1,000 to 2,000 acres a day.

    “My farmers really talked about planting more cotton early on. However, with cotton prices so low, that’s not very attractive, but beans at $8 and corn at $3 are not attractive options either. There’s really nothing that looks good right now.

    “I think cotton acres will be close to the same as last year. They may be down just a little, but I don’t see the peak that I expected back in the winter. The corn acres will be up a little if it stops raining and farmers can plant it. Beans will likely be off because $8 beans are terrible. I don’t see a lot of profit potential this year.”


    Ty Edwards, Edwards Ag Consulting, LLC, Water Valley, Mississippi:

    “Very little has been done around here. To my knowledge, no corn has been planted (as of 4/7) and certainly nothing else has been planted. As it looks now, cotton acres will be about the same as 2019. It was going to be a little higher than last year, but I don’t know if that’s going to come to fruition. I think cotton will remain about the same, corn will go up and soybeans will go down.

    “I believe that growers are going to be a little wiser about cotton variety selection. Last year, we planted some varieties that just didn’t perform well, so we may go back to several of the previous varieties we used. They’re more proven, and we know what they’re capable of doing. We tried a few newer varieties, but some of them let us down last year.

    “With soybeans, my growers are starting to worry about the redbanded stink bug due to the lack of cold weather over the winter. They remember having to deal with that animal a couple of years ago and how much money it cost them. It makes soybeans not pencil out quite as well.

    “With corn, the price is usually decent, and these guys need to get back into the rotation that we were in for years. They moved away from it, and they’ve seen yields drop accordingly.

    “Our irrigated acres continue to grow slightly. As far as the hill irrigation goes, there’s not a lot more that we can do. We’ve got the old original pumping units and sand filters that were put in five to 10 years ago that they’re still using, but there’s not a lot of new systems going in. We’ve applied for well permits and they’ve been denied every time.”


    Steve Schutz, Independent Consultant, Coushatta, Louisiana:

    “We have a little corn planted. Armyworms – not fall armyworms but the true armyworms – are everywhere. With one producer, they were tearing up his Bt corn. While the armyworms ragged it up, they did die.


    “These are really easy to control. Like cutworms, use a low rate of a pyrethroid. I was out looking at a client’s corn, and he’d already sprayed it. However, the armyworms were migrating again. The pyrethroid has enough residual, but the road ditches were just covered with them.

    “I’ve seen this before where we’ve had a mild winter, and these true armyworms come out and they cover everything. With one field, they stripped the Johnsongrass all around the field but didn’t touch the Bermudagrass.

    “I’d say there’s about 2,000 acres of corn planted in my area (as of 4/6). South of here, they made a pretty good hit. North of here, they have nothing in the ground.

    “The cotton is going to be slightly down in this area. I think my Arkansas clients’ cotton acres are going to be up a little, but I don’t know about the population up there as a whole.

    “We’ve gotten plenty of rain. It was like a flash flood here, and the ground was already saturated. If did not rain, the producers with sandy soils could probably be back in the field in three or four days. Everyone else would probably have to wait five days for it to be dry enough. We need eight days of no rain to get everyone back in the field again.”


    Ashley Peters, Peters Crop Consulting, Crowville, Louisiana:

    “I’d say most everyone is done planting corn. Weather permitting, they’d all love to finish. Where they’ve finished planting corn, growers are trying to apply fertilizer and herbicides.

    “A few beans went in the ground in spots. Depending on the rain, they are planting or will begin when the weather allows.

    “At one time we expected cotton acres to either be flat or only slightly down, but now I think they will be way down, with beans and/or rice replacing those cotton acres. Also, some farmers didn’t get all the corn planted they wanted, so those acres may go to beans, as well.

    “Some farmers who’ll have rice this year may try more hybrids. That includes farmers who customarily don’t plant hybrids. They may plant more hybrids this year to try to gain yield advantages. Growers who have done row rice may do more, or some farmers who haven’t tried any row rice may plant a little this year.

    “Considering commodity prices and the economy, cotton and corn growers probably won’t do anything this year that adds significantly to the budget. They have to put out fertilizer, herbicides and water when needed – but not do anything extra. I have heard that getting financed this year was a challenge for a number of people, and some are still trying to get financed, so it’s a year to pinch all the pennies you can within reason.”

    AgFax Midsouth Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Owen Taylor, Editorial Director.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the cotton production season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address: 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047. Office: 601-992-9488.
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