More than 20% cotton loss expected

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CAPRON—With cotton harvested from half of its 1,200 acres, Everett Farms has experienced a $70,000 loss in this year’s crop, said M.L. Everett, president and owner of the Capron farm.

Weather will determine the season’s overall loss as the remaining 600 acres are harvested over the next three weeks.

“It (the loss) probably won’t be that drastic if the weather holds out,” Everett said.

With 60 percent of Southampton County’s cotton harvested, Chris Drake, agriculture and natural resource agent for Virginia Cooperative Extension in Southampton County, is expecting a 20 to 25 percent loss from this year’s crop. That’s an increase of an anticipated 10 to 15 percent loss after Hurricane Irene hit on Aug. 27 with near 60 mph winds and 12 inches of rain.

An anticipated record crop has turned into an average crop during a year when cotton prices started at a 15-year high; during an average year, 750 pounds of cotton are harvested per acre, Drake said. During a good year, it’s 900 pounds per acre.

The price for cotton also has dropped to under $1 per pound; the year began at $1.30 to $1.40 per pound.

“The major damage is not due to Irene,” he said.

Drake blames it on the six to seven weeks of rain that followed.

“Irene did cause some (damage) because the cotton tangled up,” he said. “The large amount of rain caused ‘hard lock.’”

Hard lock prevents the cotton bolls from opening.

“They’re kind of locked down,” Drake said.

He estimates that 60 percent of the cotton has been harvested. The weather for the harvest hasn’t been the greatest, Drake said.

“We had rain periods,” he said.

The days after the hurricane, the weather was nice.

“In the first week of September, we had several inches of rain,” Drake said. “That led to a lot of cloudy days and humidity. Rainfall is not good for cotton (after it) opens.”

“We will have some really good weather and dry forecast the next seven days,” he continued.

Everett’s yield has been 600 to 900 pounds per acre.

“We’re really expecting an 800-pound crop,” he said.

Everett attributes his loss to hard lock, which makes the cotton harder to pick.

“It looks like there’s 500 pounds of cotton on the ground after the machine goes through,” he said.

Although Everett has insurance, it will not kick in unless he experiences a 30 percent loss.

“We’re not going to have more than a 30 percent loss, so we will probably not have a claim,” he said.