Cotton acreage up as corn acres slip

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, June 12, 2024

By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Extension Service

Cotton planting has all but drawn to a close in Mississippi for the year, with the state seeing an increase to an expected 500,000 acres in 2024.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture made that acreage estimate and said the crop was 94% planted by June 9, 2024. Of that acreage, 80% was either in good or excellent condition, with 19% in fair and just 1% in poor condition.

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Brian Pieralisi, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said cotton planting began in late April in most places.

“The planting window depends on where you are in the state,” Pieralisi said. “We got a lot of cotton planted in those first few weeks, then there was a gap where some people were finished, and others couldn’t get in the field because of wet pockets.”

The majority of the crop was planted by mid-May, but growers struggled a bit to get the last 20% in the ground.

Pieralisi said the crop should begin to really take off by mid-June.

“It takes a while for the plants to establish roots, and they don’t look great during that time,” he said. “In the next few weeks, cotton will have reached 8-12 nodes, and they really start to get their feet under them at that point.”

Alex Deason, Extension agent in the Delta region, said there is always a difference between cotton grown in the north Delta and the south Delta.

“Cotton in the south Delta had very few problems as it came up, but recent rains have prevented growers from doing needed weed control or addressing fertility concerns,” Deason said. “The north Delta battled rains at planting, which caused some stand issues.”

Josh Tilley, Extension agent in Lowndes County, said cotton in the eastern part of the state had adequate soil moisture, soil temperature and dry weather days to get it planted and has emerged without any major problems.

“Only time will tell how productive the cotton crop will be this year,” Tilley said. “Even though cotton is a heavily managed crop, the numbers worked out better for most growers to shift toward planting more cotton rather than corn or soybeans this year.”

Tilley said area cotton growers are also benefiting from a relatively new and well managed cotton gin, and another nearby gin is making some improvements.

“Between these two gins, they should be able to handle the increased acre production,” he said. “That always helps give farmers peace of mind about getting their cotton out of the field and ginned.”

Will Maples, MSU Extension agricultural economist, said the state’s increased cotton acreage is due to lower corn prices. The acreage expected in Mississippi is in line with recent cotton acreage and up from the 390,000 acres grown in 2023.

Despite the increased acreage, cotton prices have traded lower than in 2023.

“December cotton futures have traded around $.75 to $.80 for the past month, down about $.05 from earlier in the year,” Maples said. “This decrease is driven by the expectation of larger supplies and weak demand.

“The weaker market might have caused some producers to shift their planting intentions away from cotton, so we may see slightly lower acres than projected in the April Prospective Plantings report from USDA,” he said.

Maples said demand for cotton continues to weigh down prices and is expected to for the near future.

“Any price rallies throughout the summer must be driven from the supply side, which means weather problems,” Maples said.