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Owen Taylor, Editor
FIRST ISSUE FOR 2018
24 Years, But Who’s Counting?
Here is our first issue of AgFax Midsouth Cotton for 2018.
This marks the start of our 24th season covering the region’s cotton crop.
Our thanks to SePRO – maker of Brake herbicide – for once again sponsoring our coverage. This is the third year that SePRO has exclusively sponsored both AgFax Southeast Cotton and AgFax Midsouth Cotton.
Cotton planting swung into full gear this week across much of our coverage area. As several of our contacts noted, warm and dry weather seemed to have happened suddenly after a cold and miserable spring. Farmers have already made a big dent in the intended acreage. It’s likely that a few producers could actually wrap up all or most of their planting this week, weather permitting.
Rain was in the forecast for Friday as we closed out this issue on Wednesday afternoon. How much it rains could influence the final size of the Midsouth crop. If rain lingers and stalls planting and/or cool weather returns, that could work against the final total. But if rainfall amounts are light and farmers can quickly jump in the field again, acreage will stay on an upward trend.
In most states, cotton acres will likely increase over 2017’s plantings. Louisiana is an exception.
Trey Bullock, Bullock's Ag Consulting, Hattiesburg, Mississippi:
“One client near the Mississippi River has probably planted 300 or 400 acres of cotton. But to the east where the bulk of my acres are, we haven’t started yet. However, we’ll probably see planters moving on Wednesday (5/2).
“We’ve had delays due to all the rains and cool weather. Also, growers have been desperately trying to repair infrastructure when they could catch dry conditions. All the storms – both last year and this year – dumped huge amounts of rain. That blew out culverts and clogged drainage tile. It’s been a mess. Some clients are still scrambling to fix as much of that as they can.
“I won’t have any corn this year and maybe only 300 acres of soybeans. I expect to have close to an equal amount of cotton and peanut acres. I have growers with 2,000 to 3,000 acres that have been splitting it between corn and beans for years, but all that ground will be in cotton in 2018.”
Steve Schutz, Ind. Consultant, Coushatta, Louisiana:
“We started planting cotton last Friday. A few growers might actually finish today (4/30) but certainly wrap it up by the end of this week. A lot of beans will go in the ground between now (4/30) and this weekend. If it doesn’t rain again, we’ll finish most of our planting in 10 to 14 days.
“My cotton acres might increase slightly, but that’s independent of the cotton market. We have small fields bordered or surrounded by woods, and the woods have an abundance of wildlife. Wild hogs will tear up corn in those fields and deer will get into the beans, so cotton is the only option. Altogether, that’s 200 to 300 acres.”
Bill Brooks, Mid-South Farmers Cooperative, Alamo, Tennessee:
“Cottonseed is being delivered today (4/30) and some is going in the ground. We normally don’t start planting cotton until the last week of April. Over the last several years I think some of our best cotton was planted in mid-May, so we’re not running behind.
“Probably 90% of the corn has been planted. All this crazy, wet weather really stalled corn planting. Whether we achieve stands on some of this acreage remains a question. Overall, I think we’ll plant most of the corn people intended to have. Some early beans were being planted the week before last and planting started again today. We lost most of last week to rain.”
Scott Gifford, Gifford Crop Consulting, Manila, Arkansas:
“We just started planting cotton yesterday (4/30) at exactly 4:30 p.m. We like to start about April 25, but it’s been really cool and wet, so nobody has been very excited about running planters up until now. Conditions are warmer now but it’s been cool up here for about a month.
“My cotton acres will be up for sure and I think cotton acres in this area will be up, too.
“Corn has been up about two weeks. Growers weren’t able to plant all they intended due to cool and wet weather. Where they didn’t finish corn, that ground went to soybeans. My earliest growers started planting soybeans on April 10, and those beans just emerged over the weekend (4/28-30), which was about 3 weeks after planting. How much replanting will be necessary in those soybeans remains to be seen, but I’m sure we’ll at least have to do some spot replanting in low, wet spots and on ends of certain fields.”
Darrin Dodds, Mississippi Cotton Specialist:
“Growers are just starting to plant cotton. A little movement began over the weekend and more cranked up yesterday (4/30), but farmers are moving pretty hard today on multiple fronts. Rain and cold weather delayed things.
“On one hand, some people might say that this spring hasn’t been kind to cotton because it held them back. On the other hand, we’re really just to the point where we want cotton planting to start anyway. We still have some concerns about cool conditions. My truck thermometer showed 40 degrees at daybreak yesterday (4/30). Even today, it was still in the mid 50s this morning. But conditions are warming up, and it hit 82 this afternoon.
“This really is the right time to start planting and conditions are a good deal more favorable. People are watching the forecast, which has a chance of rain this weekend, but they’ll run hard in front of that.
“If we have several days of favorable planting weather, we could see cotton acreage go up. I’m thinking it could range from 700,000 to 750,000 acres compared to 630,000 last year. But if the weather reverts to a cold and wet pattern, that probably would take away some of those extra acres. Where cotton acres are increasing, it’s primarily coming out of corn.”
Bob Griffin, Griffin Ag Consulting, Jonesboro, Arkansas:
“One grower started planting cotton on Sunday and more planting began yesterday (4/30).
“The forecast calls for another rain this weekend. I think several growers will pull back from more planting by Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how the forecast goes. In the past, some of them planted right up to the point that it started raining but wished later they hadn’t. The reality is that we can plant a huge amount of cotton now in a very short period, so we can make up for a little wet weather.
“If rain isn’t a factor, we could be 50% to 75% finished by the end of this week. This is the first warm, dry stretch we’ve had this spring. If the weather remained in this pattern, we could be finished planting cotton altogether by the end of next week.
“We’ll see a 10% to 15% increase in acreage, with that mainly coming out of corn. At this point, people see cotton as having the most profit potential. Producers who want to get into cotton again are having a hard time finding good used pickers at any price.
“Our corn has had a hard time between rain, cold temperatures, frosts and freezing conditions. It looked pitiful on a wide basis and I thought some of it wouldn’t come back. But now it appears to be rebounding nicely.
“Soybeans are popping up. A big part of the crop – probably 30% to 40% -- has been planted. Some went in the ground as long as three weeks ago and temperatures dropped into the 30s at nights during that period. They still might be okay. Soybeans are a tougher crop than maybe we once thought.”
Andy Tonos, Delta Ag Consulting, Greenville, Mississippi:
“I’ll have one farm this year with cotton, as things look now, and the grower is finishing soybeans before he begins planting cotton. We’re a good deal further behind on soybean planting than we were this time last year. In 2017, we were pretty much finished by the first week of May. Delays in planting corn delayed bean planting.
“Growers planted corn as they could but the weather drug that out and they had to be in the field at times when the ground was wetter than we’d like. That’s caused more rutting than usual, even where farmers ran tracked machines. But with the way conditions have been, that’s just a reality we’ve got to accept this year. With rain and irritation, those ruts should mostly melt away, but nobody wants to see them right now.”
Ashley Peters, Peters Crop Consulting, Crowville, Louisiana:
“A good bit of cotton has been planted. My acres will be somewhat down this year for different reasons. One grower, for example, reduced his acreage so he could have enough harvest capacity to do some custom picking in the fall.
“Overall, I think it will mostly be a wash. Some growers will trim their cotton acres while others who’ve had no cotton lately will plant a little. A lot of growers had a bad crop last year for different reasons, and they may not make as big a commitment to cotton this year.
“Most corn growers are probably finished with fertilizer or close to it. That’s mostly the case with herbicides, too. Some guys are rolling out polypipe. If they miss rain this week, they’ll be thinking about running pumps early next week. We’ll probably see a large portion of our soybeans planted this week.”
Ty Edwards, Edwards Ag Consulting, LLC, Water Valley, Mississippi:
“Everyone just started setting planters yesterday (4/30). If the weather had allowed, we might have been planting for a week already. However, we’re still just on the very front end of our planting window.
“Cotton acres will be up a lot. Planted acres for our local gin, which I manage, will be up about 35%. I check cotton for most of those guys, plus some additional growers, and that’s a pretty good estimate for this area.
“That’s the Yalobusha County Gin, and our cotton acres have actually gone up at least some for five years in a row. Part of that was from picking up new members. Most gins in the area had declining acres for several years, I’m told, but their numbers are coming up now, too. I’ll work more cotton this year, myself, and most of that increase is coming out of corn and soybeans.”
Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist:
“What a difference a week makes. At one point where I monitor heat units, we would have accumulated 3.5 heat units in a 5-day period from last Monday. This Monday (4/30), the 5-day accumulation looks like it will be 60 heat units.
“When you look at the planting forecast for those two Mondays, we went from poor conditions to very good conditions in just a week. This spring after all the cold and wet weather, conditions are suddenly favorable and everyone with a cotton planter is running it now. I’ve seen a couple of fields in south Arkansas where it looked like cotton was trying to come up. Overall, though, we have very little April-planted cotton. Where it was planted in April, most of that would have been in the last 2 or 3 days of the month.
“Our acres will be up a little compared to last year. How much cotton we finally plant will depend on how good the weather is over the next couple of weeks. If we catch 10 to 14 days with mostly good conditions, our total could bust the 500,000-acre mark, I think. Rain is in the forecast later this week, although it doesn’t seem to be as much as they predicted earlier. Planting will go fast if we miss a big part of that next front and highs remain in the 80s. In 10 days, Arkansas farmers can plant a significant amount of cotton.
“The biggest part of these additional cotton acres will come out of corn. Some growers figured that cotton was better than $3.50 corn, so they held at least some acres for cotton. But corn is getting closer to $4, and some of those guys may wish now that they had planted more corn when they could.”
Dan Fromme, Louisiana Extension Cotton and Corn Specialist:
“Cotton planting busted loose this past weekend (4/28-29). After cool temperatures and rain, things dried up and equipment began running. Prior to that, very little cotton had been planted in Louisiana. But it’s like someone threw a switch over the weekend – temperatures warmed up and cotton planting came to life. That goes for soybeans, too.
“Corn was a nightmare with all the rain events. It rained from the latter part of February through March. Some corn had to be planted in April, which we don’t like to do, but then people transitioned into soybeans.
“We planted 220,000 acres of cotton last year. There’s no way it will be that high this year. It might range between 160,000 and 180,000 acres. We’ve had some hard luck in the last couple of years with insects and weather, so yields were down for many growers. A lot of people have been discouraged about cotton. That goes both for farmers and lenders.”
Tyson Raper, Cotton and Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee:
“As of the end of last week, I don’t know of any cotton that had been planted in Tennessee. But on Monday a lot of planters were out. People started calibrating equipment and by late Monday afternoon they were planting cotton.
“Activity picked up and by today (5/2) things are really moving. It’s probably still too wet to plant in our river counties but people east of there are taking advantage of warm conditions. The soil temperature yesterday was 55 where I checked but today it’s much closer to 65. We’ll have a big jump in planted acres in a short time.
“Cotton acres will increase substantially this year. I believe we’ll be north of 400,000 acres, which is up quite a bit from 2017. I expect a much larger increase than the National Cotton Council or USDA predicted earlier. A lot of that acreage will come out of corn and a little out of beans, I think.”
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AgFax Midsouth Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC, Owen Taylor, Editorial Director. It is available to United States residents engaged in grain farming or qualifying ag-related professions. Mailing address: 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047. 601-992-9488 (Fax: 601-992-3503). Email: email@example.com.
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