Despite a few weather challenges, overall it has been a good year for cotton and rice, growers in southeast Missouri say.
Widespread irrigation in the area allowed cotton crops to thrive through hot, sunny weather. Some rainy weather in early- to mid-August may have taken away top yield from the sunshine-loving cotton plants, but it still looks to be a good crop.
Rice likewise had a fairly successful year, and farmers have begun harvest.
New Madrid County farmer Clay Hawes says it was an eventful weather year for the crops.
“Record rainfall occurred the first two weeks of August during a critical development stage for cotton and rice,” he says. “This obviously took place after a summer-long drought that put stress on the plants. The effect of the excessive rains will cause a setback to potential cotton yields in southeast Missouri.”
Missouri grows the crops in the Bootheel and surrounding areas, ranking in the top 10 nationally for cotton production and top five for rice.
University of Missouri cotton specialist Bradley Wilson says it was a generally good year in his area. He is based at the MU Fisher Delta Research Center at Portageville.
“I think it’s been a pretty good year for us,” he says. “The cotton crop looks good for us.”
Wilson says cotton likes warm, sunny conditions, and irrigation is widespread in southeast Missouri, but a lack of rain early on provided weed control challenges.
“We did not get any kind of rain early on, which affected our herbicide programs,” he says. “It needed rainfall to activate those.”
July did provide some relief from the overall drought conditions.
“July, we started getting some rains, which helped out a lot,” Wilson says.
He says farmers started irrigating in late June or early July, although early- to mid-August brought more rain than needed, limiting production for the upper cotton bolls.
“We had a week or two period where it felt like it rained every other day,” he says. “We had a huge rain event. I think that kind of hurt the crop in some ways. It may have hurt the top crop. … When you’re not having sunshine, you’re not going through photosynthesis and getting those carbohydrates for crop development.”
Wilson says cotton is a fairly drought-tolerant crop, and the early dry conditions probably helped the cotton develop good root systems.
He says at least 90 to 95% of the cotton in southeast Missouri is irrigated.
Wilson says the cotton harvest could happen a little earlier than normal, but weather in the rest of September will determine that.
On rice, the crop is looking good as harvest rolls on, MU Extension rice specialist Justin Chlapecka says.
“The rice crop looks very good down here and we’ve gotten an early start to harvest,” he says.
Chlapecka first heard of rice being harvested on Aug. 21, with the harvest in full swing by Labor Day weekend.
The good crop started with timely rice planting this year.
“The vast majority of growers were able to get planted during the first three weeks of April, which sets us up for excellent yield potential compared to later plantings,”
Chlapecka says. “There were a few weather issues including the drought occurring around pre-flood timing that exacerbated some weed management issues in relation to herbicides not being activated or working as well with the warm and dry weather. This is the biggest issue I’ve seen — some fields not being quite as clean as we’d like — but it’s nothing we don’t face in some form or fashion every year.”
He says pest pressures were pretty low this year, including sheath blight and rice stink bugs.
Chlapecka says the weather during the growing season was decent, although it was a little cloudier with more wet weather than ideal for rice growers. But overall, it was a very good year for rice.
“We have had two of our highest state average yields over the last two growing seasons, and I would expect this year to rival 2022 if not 2021’s state record yield,” he says.