Cotton crop suffers damage from flooding rains

(08/30/16) ALEXANDRIA, La. – Cotton farmers did not escape unscathed by the flooding rains of mid-August. LSU AgCenter cotton specialist Dan Fromme has seen the damages caused by several days of heavy rain and excessive humidity.

“We’ve seen a lot of boll rot that is on the lower part of the plant simply because of the lack of sunshine, excess moisture and high humidity,” he said.

Fromme has been scouting cotton fields across the state to report the damages to AgCenter economists to get a clear picture of the extent of damage to Louisiana’s agriculture sector.

Preliminary estimates put agricultural damage at approximately $110 million, but this number can easily rise because it may take weeks before some plants show damage from the rains.

One sign of damage to cotton is cottonseed inside open bolls have sprouted, reducing seed and lint quality.

“Farmers and cotton gins get a substantial amount of money from the cottonseed. That cottonseed has sprouted. It’s not going to be of any quality,” Fromme said.

Fromme expects some fields to lose from a half bale to a full bale per acre. A bale of cotton weighs 480 to 500 pounds.

Another problem plaguing cotton producers is a disease called target spot, which causes the plant to defoliate starting at the bottom. The disease interferes with photosynthesis, causing stress to the plant and reducing yield.

By the time target spot is present, it is too late to take action, Fromme said.

“You have to spray before you see it, and because it is seldom seen, most farmers are not going to spray because of the expense,” he said.

Louisiana has approximately 137,000 acres of cotton this year. Acreage is down from more than 600,000 acres in the mid-2000s. High production costs, low prices for cotton and higher prices for other commodities have led to the decrease.

Cotton growers were already facing a higher incidence of plant bugs, such as the boll worm this year, which were leading to higher production costs for insecticide applications.

Rain has also led many cotton plants to produce new growth, especially at the top of the plant. This new growth will be difficult to defoliate when it comes time the harvest.

“These young juvenile leaves that we see, they are not ready to fall off, and even when we try to help them fall off, it’s going to be really tough,” Fromme said. “Our cotton crop has gone south very quickly.”

sprouted  cotton boll.JPG thumbnail

Seeds inside a cotton boll have sprouted because of the heavy rains across Louisiana in mid-August. Sprouting reduces lint and seed quality. In some fields, LSU AgCenter cotton specialist Dan Fromme expects yields to be reduced between a half bale and a full bale per acre. A bale weighs 480 to 500 pounds. Photo by Dan Fromme

target spot.jpg thumbnail

A cotton leaf in Rapides Parish is infected with target spot, a disease that causes a cotton plant to defoliate starting at the bottom. The disease reduces yield and is not usually seen in Louisiana. Heavy rains in mid-August have caused damage to many cotton fields across the state. Photo by Dan Fromme

8/30/2016 3:10:18 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture