Cotton waits for picking

Published 12:24 am Monday, October 1, 2007

VIDALIA — Louisiana’s cotton farmers are identifying with the old song this season: the cotton needs picking, oh so bad.

About 7 percent of the Louisiana cotton crop has been harvested so far this year, LSU extension cotton expert Sandy Stewart said.

“That lags pretty far behind our average for this time of year,” he said. “Last year we had a quarter of the crop harvested by this time.”

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The reason the harvest has been slow this year, Stewart said, is rain.

“Rain events haven’t moved through very quickly and we’ve had the kind of conditions after the rain that doesn’t help dry fields out,” he said.

Cotton cannot be picked when it is wet, and so when it rains farmers have to wait for the cotton to dry out and fluff up before it can be harvested.

Ferriday cotton farmer Buddy Tanner said he has felt the effects of the weather this year.

Because the conditions haven’t been good for picking, Tanner said he had to delay his harvest.

“Normally we start the first week of September,” he said. “This year we started in the third.”

Tanner said the delay has pushed his final harvest dates back, but he’s not worried about the crop.

“If we have good weather, we can be done by the second week of November,” he said. “We just have a small number of days in that window we can pick cotton.”

The danger in waiting to harvest beyond a certain point is that farmers will begin to lose some of their yield to the environment and the quality of the cotton will be affected the more time it spends wet, Stewart said.

“In October, the days are getting shorter, and so they’re losing the number of hours of daylight they get to help the cotton dry out,” he said.

Despite the delays, Stewart said he has good feelings about this year’s harvest.

“I think the crop is better than we gave it credit for,” he said. “There’s a lot of money in the field right now.”