Cotton rebounds some in Western Tidewater

Published 9:22 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

COURTLAND—Middle of last week, Randy Nurney figured he lost less than 10 percent of his 1,400 acres of cotton from Hurricane Irene.

“I thought I was going to have a pretty decent crop,” the Capron farmer said. “You gotta deal with it. Hopefully things will get better.”

Ten days after Irene ripped through Western Tidewater, things are looking somewhat better. This week’s forecasted rain is the new concern.

“Some of it (cotton) has lifted back up,” said Chris Drake, agriculture agent for Virginia Cooperative Extension in Southampton County. “It looks a lot better than after the storm.”

Last week’s low humidity and sun were ideal for the crop, Drake said.

“But as far as this week’s forecast, there’s going to be a chance of rain for the remainder of the week, which we don’t need right now,” he said.

Forecasters are calling for a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms today, Sept. 7, and Thursday, Sept. 8, followed by 30 percent on Friday, Sept. 9.

The rain will delay spraying cotton plants, which is done so the leaves can defoliate and cotton can be picked, Drake said.

“The chemical does not work as well when we’re having rain,” he said. “He (the farmer) can’t get into the field to spray. At this point, there could be a lot (of plants) that could be defoliated.

It normally takes seven to 10 days for the sprayed leaves to drop.

Western Tidewater could get some rain from Hurricane Katia, Drake said. As of Tuesday, Katia had weakened to a tropical storm and was headed for Bermuda.

“Hopefully, we won’t get any wind,” Drake said. “That could be detrimental.”

Wendall Cooper, a consultant with Mid Atlantic Gin in Emporia, visited the area last week. While looking at a cotton field on Highway 35 near Blackhead Signpost Road outside Courtland, Cooper estimated that 50 pounds per acre was lost due to Irene. That’s assuming 900 pounds of cotton will be harvested per acre.

“We may see further loss,” he said.

The wind messed up the cottons’ rows, which are needed to pick the crop.

Cooper saw the worst damage in Suffolk.