The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 10, 2013

Cotton lags, but farmers aren't worried

By Caleb Odom
For The News Courier

—  An overly wet start to the summer season has delayed the growth of cotton crops, agricultural officials said this week.

Several days of near-steady rainfall has meant many blooms are just now appearing on the plants. Officials aren’t worried about the fate of the crop, however.

“Most of your farmers will tell you that they would like to see a bloom by the Fourth of July so we’re not too bad late,” said Shane Seay, director of the Limestone County Farm Service Agency.

Despite the flooding that has plagued some Limestone communities, Seay added farmers haven’t had many complaints about the rain.

“Right now I haven’t heard a lot of concern, except for maybe a few low places people have where the crop may drown out,” he said. “But I think everybody is mostly going to say it was beneficial.”

Charles Burmester, agronomist of row crops at Auburn University’s Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center, said the cotton in North Alabama is roughly a week to 10 days behind schedule.

“Usually we’ll have quite a few blooms on the cotton by now, but mostly all the cotton planting was delayed,” he said, adding the rain turned out to be beneficial. “Cotton is really growing rapidly right now with all the rain that we have had. It is rooting well and it’s doing everything it’s supposed to be doing.”

In 2012, Alabama was ranked seventh in the nation in terms of cotton production. Limestone County, however, has seen fewer acres dedicated to cotton because of the decreased value of the crop.

“We are a county that used to have 60,000 acres of cotton and we are probably going to do good to have 10,000 acres of cotton this year,” Seay said.

Despite that drastic drop, however, Seay said he feels numbers have leveled off.

“I think … people are going to rotate crops and (will) use cotton in that rotation,” he said.

A wet year

Last May, the Limestone area received 2.79 inches of rainfall. That amount ballooned this year to 6.60 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.

Another noticeable variance can be found with July. In 2012, 6.14 inches of rainfall was reported for the month, the weather service said. As of Monday, 7.33 inches had been reported.

Limestone may experience more precipitation this week, as there is a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorm activity in the forecast for today through Friday.