2003 was banner year for Georgia cotton growers

Good weather, growth, yield, quality and price: This pretty much sums up Georgia's 2003 cotton crop, says Steve M. Brown, University of Georgia Extension cotton specialist.

"The most profound thing about this past year is that we grew a crop with rain," said Brown at the recent Georgia Cotton Workshop held in Statesboro.

"It rained — excessively in places — but everyone was glad to see an end to the seven-year drought."

Georgia growers planted 1,292,389 acres in 2003, he says, with some acreage being lost to peanuts and wet conditions during the spring. Producers harvested 2.15 million bales from 1.29 million acres. The estimated yield was 800 pounds per acre.

In 2002, the state's growers harvested 1.75 million bales from 1.43 million acres, with an average yield of 587 pounds per acre.

Several major issues dominated cotton production in Georgia in 2003, says Brown. These included good to excellent yields, for the most part, and improved micronaire. "Our micronaire has been spectacular, with less than 1.5 percent of the crop with high micronaire. But we still have a long ways to go with fiber quality," he says.

Nineteen percent of Georgia's 2003 cotton crop was short staple. Looking at the Southeastern classing offices, Macon still lags behind Birmingham, Florence and Memphis in terms of uniformity. Precipitation and other weather conditions were very good for cotton production in Georgia this past year, says Brown, with temperatures being very moderate compared to those seen in 2002.

Growers certainly have seen better prices from the 2003 crop, he adds, but the continued loss of U.S. textile mills to foreign competition remains a concern.

Georgia isn't and will not be a one cotton variety state, notes Brown. This past year, the top 10 varieties in Georgia — according to a USDA/AMS survey — were DP-555 BR (more than 30 percent of the state's acreage), DP-458 BR (nearly 20 percent of Georgia's acreage), DP-5690 RR, DP-5415 RR, DP-451 BR, ST-4892 BR, NuCOTN-33B, FM-989 RR, FM-989 BR and DP-436 RR.

Because of yield results in previous years, DP-555 BR was expected to be the dominant variety this past year, says Brown. "But its 2003 performance was not universally spectacular. Seed costs, height management, Pix costs, hard lock and boll rot, yield and maturity all were factors. But it still remains the variety to beat. Its yield potential makes it an easy choice as a major variety on a farm with alternatives based on seed vigor, planting date, maturity, technology, growth management and storm tolerance."

Despite ideal growing conditions in 2003, Georgia producers still encountered challenges, says Brown, including planting delays, stink bugs, nematodes and height management.

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