Wet weather may mean less corn, more cotton

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 31, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Wet weather has prevented many farmers in Concordia, Catahoula and surrounding parishes from planting corn this year. So those who can renegotiate financing arrangements or have enough cash on hand may plant cotton on those acres instead, said Dr. John Barnett, a Winnsboro-based cotton specialist who works with farmers throughout northeast Louisiana.

&uot;Cotton is a more expensive crop to produce, from higher insect and herbicide costs to the cost of hiring consultants,&uot; said Barnett, a specialist with the Louisiana State University AgCenter. He noted that cotton costs $350 to $400 an acre to plant versus $200 to $250 an acre for corn.

&uot;But cotton can be planted through mid-May, while we like to see cotton planted by April 10,&uot; he said. &uot;Research shows that every day you plant (corn) after that, you lose yield.&uot;

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Some, like LSU AgCenter plant scientist Dr. Walter Morrison, believe corn can be planted a little later – but not by much.

&uot;The big thing farmers are concerned about right now is their idea that it may be too late to plant corn in some areas of the state already,&uot;&160;Morrison said. &uot;But it’s really not too late to plant at this point.&uot;

Still, he said, &uot;as we get closer to April 15, the potential for maximum yields declines.&uot;

Only 42 percent of the state’s expected corn acreage had been planted as of last week, and rainy weather kept many farmers out of the mud-logged fields last week.

&uot;That leaves about 50,000 to 60,000 acres that could go into cotton production&uot; that would normally be used to grow corn, Barnett said.

The good news, he said, is that very few Louisiana farmers plant a variety of crops and, in the process, decrease the risk associated with any one crop.