Stopping and starting. That's how cotton planting has progressed through much of our coverage area. It rains and keeps growers out of the field for days on end. When it's dry enough to jump in the field again, more rain soon follows, growers pull back and the cycle starts again.
Farmers returning to cotton for the first time in several years are facing an array of challenges. See comments by Hank Jones.
Thrips seem to be a non-issue, based on comments this week. The rain apparently washed them off, at least for now.
LOUISIANA CROP REPORTS
Dan Fromme, Louisiana Extension Cotton and Corn Specialist:
"We're about 35% planted across the state but hardly anything is happening right now (5/15). Starting late last week and into the weekend (5/11-12), it rained 5 to 10 inches across the state. Things are mostly at a standstill and it will be 2 or maybe 3 days before people can get in the field again to any extent. Rain is in the forecast again for Sunday (5/19).
"Normally, we like to have cotton planted by May 10-15, so we're way behind. The cotton that's up looks pretty good, considering the rain. Thank goodness for those warm temperatures. Thrips aren't an issue, which is probably due to the rain."
Hank Jones, C&J Ag Consulting, Pioneer, Louisiana:
"Nothing is going on today (5/13). The rain, which started late last week and went into the weekend, dumped 3 to 6 inches in this area. A few growers, I'm told, might be able to put spray rigs on high ground tomorrow and maybe commence some planting by Thursday.
"This has been a tumultuous set of unfortunate events. That's the best way to describe it. We've gotten one thing corrected, only to have something else go wrong. Everyone is tired of waiting and we're all like a bunch of penned-up birddogs that are ready to bust loose.
"Of my growers, maybe 10% of their expected cotton acres have been planted. Some of that is up, some isn't.
"We applied burndown herbicides in January and February and those fields are getting pretty hairy now, so we're trying to figure out a plan to clean those up before planting. In the original plan, we would have planted that cotton by now. We'll spray some herbicides now and come back with preemerge materials when we plant.
"On the plus side, soil temperatures are good and we don't have to chase moisture. When we can plant, that cotton will be up in 5 days.
"This is the first year since 2007 when I will check more cotton than soybeans, which is a sign of what's going on with soybeans. In a 3- or 4-week period, in fact, my cotton acres doubled. People who haven't grown cotton in 10 or 11 years realized they couldn't make money with soybeans.
"I've had to help several of these farmers line up a gin and locate someone who'll pick the cotton for them. Marketing that cotton is yet another challenge. Most farmers like to book on an acres contract based on production history. But these guys have no recent history, so they'll have to go with a contract based on pounds. I've been trying to connect them with brokers who'll take them on.
"Relying on custom harvesters is yet another challenge. This year, every custom harvester probably has taken on more acres than he should. I don't mean that offensively, it's just how things go. Some farmers flooded out in the Yazoo River area in Mississippi and may have some picker capacity that will be available on a custom basis.
"As late as this crop will be, the likelihood of September picking diminishes a bit more every day. With October cotton, you don't get to pick as long. Instead of a new round-module picker covering 110 acres a day in September, it will be more like 80 or 85 acres in October.
"Gins will be running at full capacity, too. I'm advising these returning growers that their cotton may not even see a gin stand until December or even January, which would be the earliest they'd have cotton to sell. If interest on loans is mounting and they won't have the money to cover it, they need to plan accordingly.
"Frankly, we're dealing with a lot of moving parts."
Harold Lambert, Independent Consultant, Innis, Louisiana:
"We're almost done with cotton planting and would have already wrapped it up but then got into a rainy spell. A few acres are left and those won't take long. The forecast looks good. Most of our cotton that's already been planted is up to cotyledons and first true leaf.
"A lot of corn will be in tassel in about a week. Rain has been catching us when trying to plant soybeans. We're about 30% done and will have to do some replanting where water is standing now (5/13). With prices like they are, soybean acres are down a little and much of that ground will go into sugarcane."