Hurricane Rita Adds To Problems For La. Cotton Crop

Sandy Stewart, Coolman, Denise  |  9/29/2005 2:57:04 AM

Damage from Hurricane Rita could result in cotton yield losses ranging from 10 percent to 65 percent on the remaining 60 percent of the Louisiana cotton yet to be harvested. Rita’s rains and winds also damaged some of the crop that already was harvested – blowing covers off modules and soaking the cotton.

Cotton yield losses are significant in all areas of the state, but experts say the greatest losses are in the southern and western cotton-producing regions. In those areas, high winds and rain blew seed cotton out of the bolls and onto the ground, where it can’t be harvested. Cotton usually is harvested in Louisiana from September through October.

News Release Distributed 09/28/05

The 2005 Louisiana cotton crop took significant hits when the second hurricane in less than a month roared into the state this past weekend (Sept. 23-25).

Dr. Sandy Stewart, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist, said the Louisiana cotton yield losses from Hurricane Rita range from 10 percent to 65 percent on the remaining 60 percent of the state’s cotton acres yet to be harvested.

"Yield losses are significant in all areas of the state," Stewart said. "But losses are greatest in the southern and western cotton producing areas."

The combination of high wind and torrential rainfall as Rita struck the state’s coastline Sept. 23 and then spread its effects across the state over the weekend resulted in seed cotton being blown out of the bolls and onto the ground – where it cannot be harvested.

Experts say the quality of cotton that can be harvested also will probably be affected, and they predict deterioration of the color grades.

"In some cases, cotton that had already been picked and was sitting in modules received some damage, because the winds blew the protective tarps off the modules," Stewart said.

When factoring in the number of acres estimated to be affected, the direct loss to yield is likely to be 10 percent to 15 percent of the expected total for the state, Stewart predicted.

"Losses in quality and harvest efficiency, increased defoliation costs and increased fuel costs associated with Hurricane Rita magnify the overall effect on the Louisiana cotton industry," Stewart said.

The estimated Louisiana cotton acreage for 2005 stands at about 600,000, according to Steward, who said cotton usually is harvested from September to October in Louisiana. Before Rita made landfall, yields were being reported as excellent across the state, and damage from Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in late August had been relatively light compared to the latest storm.

"While the majority of loss was from seed cotton being blown out of the boll in cotton remaining in the fields, there will likely be losses associated with Rita that cannot be fully estimated at this time," Stewart said.

Before Rita hit, a large percentage of the state’s cotton crop was classed in the white color grades. Stewart said some cotton harvested after the hurricane may still receive a white color grade, although an increase in light spot or spotted grade is anticipated. This can result in a 2.4 cent to 6.5 cent per pound reduction in price.

According to Stewart, estimates for cotton losses because of Hurricane Rita by regions are:

Central Louisiana – 25 percent to 65 percent loss. Individual losses in Rapides Parish may be 75 percent to 100 percent.

Northwest Louisiana – an average of 20 percent to 40 percent loss.

Northeast Louisiana – 10 percent to 30 percent loss, depending on location.

For more information on storm damage and recovering from it, as well as a variety of other topics related to agriculture, natural resources, family life and more, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contact: Sandy Stewart at (318) 473-6522 or sstewart@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: A. Denise Coolman at (318) 547-0921 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu

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