Local gins expect good cotton crop

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cotton sits ready for harvest in a field near along Crescent Drive in Franklin. This year's cotton harvest is about three weeks behind schedule due to rain.

WINDSOR—In preparation for a “slightly above average” cotton harvest, Commonwealth Cotton Gin will open its Windsor facility for the first time since 2006, said company cotton agronomist Johnny Parker.

Five years ago, Virginia farmers produced more than 100,000 acres of cotton. This year farmers grew 117,000 acres, Parker said.

“The higher price made the enterprise more attractive to more farmers this year,” he said. “Folks were looking for an alternative to corn because it’s so inconsistent in our soil types.”

Commonwealth, which also has a facility in Franklin, will bring in additional 20 workers from other states, like Texas, for transportation and ginning. Parker said the company would hire three to four local employees for office work.

Rain has slightly dampened expectations of a record cotton yield this year.

The area has received roughly 31 inches of rain since Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27 and those soggy conditions have had a negative impact on yields, said Chris Drake, agricultural extension agent for Southampton County.

Yields of close to 950 pounds per acre were expected, but the rain has dropped those expectations to about 800 pounds per acre, Drake said. The area average of 782 pounds per acre.

“Yields are not as good as we thought,” he said. “We had the potential for a record crop, and now you’re looking at a slightly above average crop.”

The soggy conditions have also delayed harvesting, Parker said. The cotton harvest usually takes place around the third week of September. This year’s crop was maturing faster than normal and was ready for harvest a week earlier.

“Cotton has to be dry when you pick it,” Parker said. “We have not had the right conditions to make any progress.”

Currently about one percent of the crop has been harvested; harvesting on the rest of the crop could begin as early as this week, he said.

“The land is still wet, but I’m sure some folks will get some started this week,” Parker said. “We could see up to 10 percent harvested this week.”