Cotton Crop Producing Average Yields
The 2014 cotton season has been tumultuous for Clay County farmers, as atypical weather and conditions created a number of problems for local cotton crops. An exceptionally wet spring followed by an extended cold spell in May saw many producers get their cotton planted later than they would have preferred. Early planting had become more and more common in the area prior to 2014.
The challenges kept coming, too, as mild temperatures in much of June and July was ideal for weekend activities, but less so for the cotton crop. As temperatures rose in late August and early September, most area fields sprung to life, though behind schedule for what many growers wanted. Local cotton bolls, for the most part, opened in October, as cool, damp fall conditions approached.
"It's been a trying year for cotton growers," Clay County Cooperative Extension chair Any Vangilder said. "Every time it got started and things looked like they were going to get on track, we'd get significant rains or the temperatures would drop. We had a lot of late-planted cotton here and had to wait for a lot of bolls to open."
Vangilder estimates around 70 to 75 percent of the county's cotton has been harvested thus far. He says most of those still having to wait to harvest hope to see three or four nice days to help get their cotton ready.
Graves Gin near Rector has been hard at work preparing the cotton coming in, working seven days a week as producers get their crops out of the field.
Even with the conditions working against them, Vangilder notes local producers have managed to yield an average crop. While this in itself is an achievement of note, low prices, an average of 61.24 cents per pound in the United States on Nov. 11, have been disappointing.
"When you struggle just to get it out and then compound that with low prices, it's a letdown," Vangilder said. "It's not a disaster or anything like that, but it is disappointing for the guys. Some were able to book their cotton in the upper 80s, but not everyone was able to do that."
Vangilder estimates top yields producing around two to two-and-a-half bales per acre as opposed to years past when many fields generated three bale yields.
"That's a little disappointing, but it's not surprising with the year we've had," he added.