USDA's latest forecast for Arkansas cotton has yield at 1,032 pounds. If realized, that would be the state's second best crop ever. Based on what he's seeing in the field, Bill Robertson isn't buying it.
“I hate to disagree with them, but that's way too optimistic,” says the Arkansas Extension cotton specialist. “Strictly looking at boll numbers, I wouldn't doubt the counts are better than they were last year when we went through a big shed. And I'm surprised plants this year are still holding bolls as well as they are.
“But with these high temperatures, we've got bunches of oddly-shaped, parrot-beak bolls. Those are all over the state and I don't think we'll have as much cotton in the bolls as we did last year.”
The cotton crop, facing relentless high temperatures, is hanging in a lot better than Robertson thought it would.
“I see some good fields with many, nice-shaped bolls. But, on the flip-side, I see many fields with weird, flat-sided bolls — they just look sickly. A lot of that has to do with the high temperatures.
“In the end, I don't know what's in the bolls. I pop some open and some of the seed haven't pollinated. Other seed began to develop and then stopped. That's raising a red flag to me in terms of yield potential. Sheer numbers of bolls are hanging in, though.”
For a state average, “I don't see us breaking 900 pounds if the high day and night temperatures hang on through August. I reckon we'll see 850 or a little higher. Over the last couple of years, we've had great falls. If we get another one with timely rains to finish the top crop out — and this crop is much earlier than normal — we could see 900 pounds to 950 pounds. But how many years in a row can we get lucky that way? Hopefully, one more.”