Cotton bolls have opened across Kansas, revealing the plant’s white lint, but also leaving it vulnerable to heavy rains seen across much of the state last week.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Crop Progress and Condition Report, bolls opening were at 77 percent in Kansas, ahead of last year’s 70 percent. Hard driving rains can dislodge lint from the plant, hurting yields, but luckily for producers in southern Kansas, the crop appeared to hold up well to the wet weather.
“It could be a problem, but it turns out the more I’m getting out into fields, the more impressed I am,” said Rex Friesen, consultant for Southern Kansas Cotton Growers. “Hard driving rain can knock cotton off the plant, but so far I haven’t seen a lot of that happening.”
Reno County farmer Cameron Peirce is growing cotton for the first time this year, and was worried about his inaugural crop during heavy rainfall.
“Our first year planting cotton has me the most nervous,” Peirce said last week. “Continuous rain at this stage is not good for the cotton.”
However, after the skies cleared, Peirce’s findings were similar to Friesen’s. He said the crop appeared to be holding up well.
A few producers in southern Kansas had begun harvest when the rains hit, and many were gearing up to begin, but rainfall set harvest back. According to the USDA report, cotton was 2 percent harvested at the end of last week.
“There’d be a lot more in the field today if we hadn’t got the rain,” Friesen said earlier this week. “It probably set us back two weeks, but a lot of our guys are no-till operations, so they can usually get in the field sooner than traditional farmers.”
If the weather remains dry, Friesen expects to see a lot of activity in the field next week.
The rains brought flooding and several cotton fields had pockets of standing water for several days. A lot of water can bleed the brown color of the stems and leaves onto the cotton lint, damaging quality, as well as potentially cause seeds inside the lint to germinate. Friesen said he’s never personally seen seeds germinate, but has heard of it happening.
“The cotton won’t be as pretty in the field,” he said. “But as far as I’m seeing, it should all be there for harvest.”
Cotton has grown in popularity in Kansas over the past several years, partly due to the crop’s low water usage. Cotton needs about one-third of the water necessary to grow corn.
While heavy rains hit Kansas, area’s in the southeast United States were affected by Hurricane Michael. Many cotton fields in Georgia — the No. 2 cotton producing state in the nation — were decimated. Cotton crop in the Texas panhandle also suffered earlier in the year from extreme drought.
The loss of crops in those two big cotton states could benefit Kansas producers in the market.
“You can’t take that much cotton out of the system without it affecting the market,” Friesen said. “We don’t like to see that happening to producers in those states, but prices could potentially go up because of it.”