Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — A Tanner & Co. employee uses a cotton-picker to finish up a harvest Wednesday at Frogmore Plantation outside Ferriday.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — A Tanner & Co. employee uses a cotton-picker to finish up a harvest Wednesday at Frogmore Plantation outside Ferriday.

Concordia Parish farmers enjoying ‘exceptional’ cotton yields

Published 12:01am Thursday, October 24, 2013

VIDALIA — For the brave Concordia Parish farmers who planted cotton this year, they’re enjoying “exceptional” yields.

Unfortunately, the high-maintenance nature of cotton farming led to less cotton being planted in the parish this year, a trend playing out across the state.

Sara Nuss, Concordia Parish’s agriculture and natural resources county agent, said parish farmers planted 16,000 acres of cotton this year, compared to 18,500 in 2012.

Of the 2013 total, Nuss said, 2,000 represented irrigated acres. That acreage generated a cotton yield of up to 1,500 pounds of cotton per acre, with the non-irrigated acreage averaging 1,100 pounds per acre, a jump from the 900 pounds per acres average in 2012, Nuss said.

The high yields locally match a state trend.

“I think we stand a good chance of breaking our pounds-per-acre record,” David Kerns, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist, said. “Yields have been outstanding. I’ve seen dry-land cotton picking as much as three bales to the acre. I’ve seen some four-bale irrigated acres. Those are exceptional yields.”

Farmers planted approximately 128,000 acres, and Kerns said much of that was concentrated in areas that typically see higher yields.

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Cotton waits to be picked at Frogmore Plantation. Concordia Parish farmers planted 16,000 acres of cotton this year, compared to 18,500 in 2012, and are enjoying exceptional yields.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Cotton waits to be picked at Frogmore Plantation. Concordia Parish farmers planted 16,000 acres of cotton this year, compared to 18,500 in 2012, and are enjoying exceptional yields.

The low acreage continues to be a concern for the state’s cotton industry. With low cotton prices, Kerns said he does not see acreage increasing much next year.

“It boils down to simple economics,” Kerns said. “The farmers are making more money growing corn and soybeans than they are cotton right now, so that is what they are going to plant.”

Richard Griffing, a Monterey agricultural consultant, said of the cotton acres he scouts, which includes portions of Concordia Parish, total acreage dropped off more than 60 percent this year.

“1,300 pound cotton is normally a very good crop,” Griffing said. “We’re having some, that is being told to me, that is picking over 2,000 pounds an acre. I’ve been doing this 25 years, and I’ve never seen cotton yields like this. It is exceptional. It is unbelievable. The yields are phenomenal.”

Griffing said the cotton season, which was planted late this season and thus harvesting didn’t begin until the end of September, enjoyed a near incident-free run, leading to the late yields.

“Usually, we have something (bad) happen,” he said. “Everyday just seemed to fall in place. We didn’t have any days over 95 degrees. We didn’t have a hurricane. We didn’t have very long, extended wet spells.”

Griffing and Nuss said the tougher maintenance factor associated with cotton farming compared to other row crops likely contributed to the overall lack of acreage farmed.

Nuss said local producers, however, are rethinking their 2014 schedule.

“Actually, I have heard some people are going to be increasing their acreage next year,” she said. “Cotton really is on a year-by-year basis. Cotton is a lot of work. Producers are still looking to stay conservative in their cotton acres at this point.”