Will the third time be a charm for Louisiana's cotton producers? This spring's weather conditions have been “so extreme” that Louisiana growers basically have three cotton crops, according to Sandy Stewart, researcher with the LSU Dean Lee Research Station in Alexandria.
“We have some optimists who are planting cotton right now,” Stewart told farmers and agribusiness representatives attending the LSU AgCenter Northeast Research Station Field Day in St. Joseph on June 13.
“First it was too wet; then, it was too dry,” said Stewart, describing the abnormal weather conditions that forced some growers to replant their crops. “We also had some cold and windy weather in the middle of May that affected cotton planting and damaged cotton that had already emerged.”
Stewart, interim cotton specialist with the LSU Extension Service, said the weather has taken its toll on Louisiana's cotton acreage, which he believes will be down 35 percent from last year. The drop would be the highest among the Mid-South states, he said.
“Because of the delay in getting a farm bill, some farmers didn't get financing or they didn't get enough for cotton,” said Stewart. “Some of the cotton acres went to corn and grain sorghum or will go into soybeans.”
As a result, Louisiana farmers may have planted only 585,000 acres of cotton — 33 percent less than 2001's 870,000 acres.
Stewart said he didn't want to sound “too negative” about the situation. “There is still a lot of potential in this crop,” he noted. “Some of the cotton in the St. Joseph area has eight or nine squares and appears to be retaining most of them.”
Having three crops could be a plus for some producers, he said. “Because the crop is so spread out, farmers will have more opportunities for timely scheduling of defoliation and harvest. But this is also going to take high-level management to juggle all that.”
During comments at another field day stop, LSU AgCenter entomologist Ralph Bagwell said stinkbug infestations have reached alarming levels in many Louisiana corn fields.
“We want farmers to be mindful of this and keep a lookout for stinkbugs in their crop,” said Bagwell, who is based at the Macon Ridge Branch Station in Winnsboro, La. “We're seeing a high population in corn, and the bugs could move into other crops.”
Roger Leonard, professor of entomology with the LSU AgCenter station in Winnsboro, said researchers have been looking at the amount of damage caused by aphids in Louisiana cotton.
“We have a two-year study that shows there's not that much damage unless you see extremely high populations of aphids,” he said. “With treatment costs rising — growers used to spend $3 an acre and now as high as $9 an acre — we may need to start rethinking our control strategies.”
e-mail: [email protected] .