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Excessive rainfall has cotton planting behind schedule

Soil moisture may benefit growers in the long run, agronomist says

Sunny, warm weather this week is what farmers needed to allow the start of planting season. (Special Photo: Clint Thompson)

Sunny, warm weather this week is what farmers needed to allow the start of planting season. (Special Photo: Clint Thompson)

TIFTON — Prolonged periods of rainfall this spring sidelined cotton farmers from planting their crop as planned for the week of April 28.

University of Georgia cotton agronomist Guy Collins believes the soil moisture left over from a very wet April may benefit cotton growers around Georgia in the long run, but prolonged excessive moisture can also create challenges.

“This certainly beats some years like 2011, where we had a moisture deficit during the early planting season and it only got worse,” Collins said. “These rains will give us a good start, and we’re not behind (planting) yet. There’s no need to worry. It’ll take several days for all this to dry out for us to get in the field, but the weather and temperature all next week look pretty good for planting. Hopefully, we’ll start seeing a lot of action then.”

The typical timeframe for cotton planting begins during the last week in April and lasts through May, with cotton that’s double cropped behind wheat, which is usual planted during the first two weeks in June. However, cotton farmers are now a week behind schedule thanks to this spring’s rain showers.

The UGA Ponder Farm in TyTy recorded 10 inches of rain during April, up substantially from the 0.99 registered in 2011. At the location of the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, 13.06 inches were recorded in April, compared to just 1.91 in 2011. At the Southeast Research and Education Center in Midville, the UGA farm registered 6.22 inches in April, up from just 1.41 in 2011.

However, as Collins mentioned, brighter days lie ahead for farmers hoping to get their planting season under way. Producers needed the warm, sunny days this week to dry out saturated fields.

“I think there’ll be a frenzy of planting activity as soon as it dries out,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of growers that cover a lot of acres in a lot of counties. They’ve got to be planting if conditions are right.”

Since the last week in April is typically the start of planting season, cotton farmers will have some catching up to do to reach the normal acreage planted in Georgia every year. According to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, cotton farmers planted 1.3 million acres in 2012

While farmers may feel frustrated by the excessive rainfall, Collins stresses the importance of the accumulated moisture.

“I remember 2011 when we started out dry and then it got real bad after that. We couldn’t get a crop going that year. A little rain is always a little bit better,” Collins said. “It may be frustrating at times, but it’s always a little bit better than not having any at all.”

For the latest cotton information, see http://www.ugacotton.com/.

Clint Thompson is with the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia - Tifton Campus.