12/06/05 — Farmers say the cotton crop is good

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Farmers say the cotton crop is good

By Turner Walston
Published in News on December 6, 2005 1:51 PM

This year's cotton harvest might not set any records, but farmers and agriculture officials say it is turning out to be a good crop.

"We might not have a record year, but the fact that we're picking above-average cotton is a pleasant surprise for everybody," Rick Tharrington said. Tharrington is director of the Farm Service Agency in Wayne County.

Charlie Warren said he expects the harvest to average 750 to 800 pounds per acre. Warren is gin manager of Coastal Plains Gin in western Wayne. Warren said the yields on the fields of cotton the company picks are running well ahead of the 500 pounds per acre that had been anticipated.

Dry weather had many farmers worried early in the season.

"At one time, it looked like our crop was doomed. But then we had a little shower, and it popped back. The weather has been against us a little bit, but overall, we're looking at a real good crop," Warren said.

"We needed some good grades and we're seeing them," he said.

Tharrington said the length of cotton-picking season depends on the weather. This year, dry air and hot temperatures led to delays.

"We usually hear of cotton being picked from Labor Day. Historically, producers would like to be finished by Thanksgiving, but we may harvest all the way through to Christmas," Tharrington said.

"Most of the boys, they're getting on the downhill side of being through picking," Warren said. "It's going to probably take until Christmas to get the ginning taken care of."

Tharrington said his office had not begun issuing loan deficiency payments because of the delays in much of the crop reaching the gin.

Wayne County farmers planted more than 23,000 acres of cotton this year, according to statistics provided by the state Department of Agriculture.

Extension Agent Kevin Johnson said advances in technology have helped develop cotton varieties that are more drought tolerant.

"When it gets as hot as it did this year, and doesn't rain, those cotton bolls should be aborting, and they held on," he said.

Johnson said Wayne corn and soybean crops also fared well this year, despite a lack of rain at crucial times during the growing season.

"We're totally surprised, considering the weather. This could be one of the best years we've ever had," Johnson said. "Last year was wonderful, too. Hopefully it will be three or four or five good years in a row."