AUBURN, Ala. — For many Alabama farmers, fall is filled with weeks of harvesting crops. Corn, peanuts, cotton and soybeans are all harvested during the fall. With corn harvest completed and an ongoing peanut harvest, other producers are switching gears and heading to the cotton picker.
Statewide Cotton Update
Dr. Trey Cutts, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System cotton specialist, said producers are harvesting or defoliating in nearly every area of the state.
“Many producers have defoliated early-planted cotton and are beginning harvest,” Cutts said. “Producers in North Alabama have already harvested early-planted cotton and stressed dry land acres. Most defoliation on later planted cotton is going on now.”
The south and central portions of the state have also harvested stressed dry land acreage, and a small amount of early-planted harvest is beginning.
Most defoliation in Central Alabama is complete, and producers will be in the field to harvest within the next week. In South Alabama, most defoliation will begin in the next seven to 10 days.
“Scattered showers in the past week may have slowed down some defoliation anf harvest progress, but generally not enough to do any damage to lint quality on defoliated cotton,” he said.
Cutts said recent NASS surveys suggest Alabama is poised for one of the best cotton years in many years—based on recent yield bumps and planted acres.
As of Sept. 25, NASS predicted 88 percent of bolls were open across the state. Cutts said the percentage is higher than previous years, most likely due to the excessive heat and dry weather across the state.
Surveys also reported 6 percent of the statewide cotton crop has already been harvested, which is slightly above average for this point in the season. Much of the crop (more than 80 percent) is in good condition.
Yield estimates indicate an expected 968 pounds per acre—a 102-pound per acre increase in cotton yield from 2015. Planted acreage is also up. Alabama producers planted a combined 342,000 acres of cotton in 2016, up 35,000 acres from the previous growing season.
Weather and Market Outlook
In checking the weather predictions for the next week, Cutts said dry, clear weather is a welcome sight for farmers as harvest and defoliation go on for the next 10 days.
Cooler night temperatures—lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit—can slow defoliant action in the plant, prolonging the defoliation progress.
“Remember defoliation needs to happen at three to four nodes above crack boll,” Cutts said. “Going into fall weather, growers need to be proactive with defoliation. Do not try to wait for all top crop bolls to mature. The likelihood of those having a significant yield impact is getting decreasingly small.”
Markets seem to be fairly stable, resting around $0.69 per pound in October and December futures. Early in the year, market prices fell below $0.60 per pound, and climbed to nearly $0.80 per pound in late July and early August.
Persistent rains in Texas are interfering with harvest and may be responsible for the small bump growers saw in market prices in mid-September.