SIKESTON -- The majority of Missouri's cotton crop is reported as being in good or excellent condition this year, but farmers whose fields were flooded last month may have a different opinion.
"The cotton is going to be good overall, and the quality will be good on most of that," Mike Milam, University of Missouri Extension cotton specialist for Southeast Missouri,
For the week ending Oct. 15, about 95 percent of the cotton crop is opening bolls. Condition of the crop is reported as 5 percent poor, 25 percent fair, 65 percent good and 5 percent excellent, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service. Cotton harvest activity was significant during the week at 44 percent complete.
Those who planted cotton very early in the season probably fared better than those who planted later because of good growing conditions, Milam said. "Overall, we had a really good looking cotton crop -- until 12 inches of rain was dumped on it (Sept. 22)," said Jeff House, agronomy special for New Madrid County Extension.
Late September's heavy rain was really sporadic -- measuring up to 17 inches in some spots, House noted.
"It really hit New Madrid County hard, but south of the Hayward overpass didn't get it," House said.
Although some of the area's cotton was not affected by last month's flood, others are estimating a 15 to 25 percent yield loss, House said. And for some, the severity of damage is still unknown. Ag officials are still unsure about cotton grades.
"We had a good crop started. It was a shock -- or shame -- to bring it this far and get ready to start defoliation and watch it get hammered the way it did," House said.
Typically if cotton is lost to a hail storm early in the year, farmers can "doctor it a little bit," House said. But this late in the season, it's not as fixable. House noted there's a lot of cost involved in cotton production -- from seed costs to chemicals and machinery; it's one of the most expensive crops to grow. "Cotton gets rained on. We hardly ever get it out of the field without rain," House said.
A little rain doesn't typically hurt cotton but when the crop is under water, that's when problems occur, both House and Milam said.
Monday's rain will set farmers back a little bit -- but hopefully not enough to ruin the grade of the cotton, Milam said.
"Obviously the biggest concern is fiber quality. Any damage to the crop depends on how much rain we get. If fibers are knocked off, then we can lose some yield," Milam said.
Prior to Monday's rain, cotton growers were just beginning to get their pickers out into the fields, House said.
Cotton production in Missouri is forecast at 1.03 million bales, 4 percent below the Sept. 1 forecast but 19 percent above the 2005 production, according to an Oct. 12 news release by Missouri's Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The projected yield of 989 pounds is 43 pounds less than a month earlier but 42 pounds above last year's yield.
"That's still not bad," Milam said.
All cotton production in the U.S. is forecast at 20.7 million 480-pound bales, down 14 percent from last year's record high production. Yield is expected to average 774 pounds per acre, down 57 pounds from last year. The October harvested area is expected to total 12.8 million acres -- down 7 percent from 2005.
Meanwhile, the waiting game for farmers continues. The National Weather Service forecasts a 20 percent chance of rain.
"Everybody wants everything to dry up and get the crop out," Milam said.