Significant Rainfall is Impacting Cotton Fields

Tifton, GA |

This time of year, typically you can find cotton producers in their fields wrapping up the planting of their crop. However, this year, things have looked a little different, as unprecedented rainfall has delayed producers from getting their 2024 crop in the ground.

“We’ve kind of had wet Mays the last two years, which is a little abnormal for us. We’re used to May being one of our drier months and not being able to do a lot of dryland planting and stuff like that, but we’ve had these fronts come through consistently that are keeping us out of the field. So, we’re at the RDC pivot today; a lot of people know where that is here in Tifton, but we were able to get in here the first week of May and plant this, but if we had not done that, then we probably wouldn’t have been able to plant it until now,” says Extension Cotton Agronomist, Camp Hand.

As Hand stated, since that first week of May, producers have not been able to get into their fields to finish planting, as the amount of rain they’ve gotten is unlike anything they’ve seen, which, according to producer, Brian Ponder, just creates more challenges to deal with throughout the season.

“Typically, in our area after about the 25th of May our yields start to decline. So, normally we would like to be through around the 20th through the 25th, but in years past at that point that’s when we see a decline in yields. Now, it’s not every year because every year’s different, and we know the Lord can work things out. We may end up making the best crop we’ve ever made, but typically planting as late as we are, we’re kind of challenged to get the yields that we need,” says Brian Ponder, Owner of Pondagold Farms in Tifton.

According to Hand however, he believes the state as a whole is in a decent spot and says regardless of whether or not the crop is planted on time, a good crop is still possible.

“We’re about where we need to be, but, with that being said, we do have an insurance deadline coming up. Next week is the first week of June, so a lot of folks are worried about getting a crop in. The one thing I’ll say is we can still make really good cotton that’s planted in June. We can get it off to a good start, but we just got to be a little more careful with making sure we don’t delay that crop any and finding any issues associated it with that crop and fixing those,” says Hand.

For Ponder and others like however, the real concern is with the financial issues producers are facing, as he says inputs and other costs have increased, but the price of cotton isn’t much more today than it was four decades ago, which makes it difficult to just breakeven.

“Today we can sell cotton for seventy-six cents a pound. Forty years ago, we were probably seventy-three. We’re basically selling the crop for the same price as we did four decades ago. In that time when I started growing cotton, I was paying twenty-five dollars a bag for cotton seed, now I’m paying 650 dollars. A cotton picker that I started out with, we bought a used cotton picker in 1987, I paid twenty-five thousand dollars for it, and now a new picker today is a million dollars. So that’s the challenges that we’re facing,” says Ponder.

By: John Holcomb