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Georgia cotton requires sufficient rainfall

Cotton plants in a field in Tift County.

By Clint Thompson

The Georgia cotton is in the ground. It just needs water to stimulate growth.

The Georgia Cotton Commission and the University of Georgia Extension Cotton Team are urging producers with irrigated fields to keep an eye on their water needs, especially as the drought continues.

Camp Hand

“Once people get behind on irrigation, it's extremely difficult to catch up. You just have to not get behind,” said Camp Hand, a cotton agronomist at the University of Georgia (UGA).

Extremely wet conditions prevailed throughout southern Georgia in May, and extremely dry in June. According to the UGA Automated Weather Network, Tifton, Georgia, received 0.79 inches of rain from June 1 to 20, compared to 5.32 inches last year. It was even worse in Albany, Georgia, which received 0.14 inches of rain during the same period, compared to 8.54 inches last year.

“I went to Midville (on Thursday) and the Coffee County and Ben Hill County area and saw that the cotton is pretty thirsty in some places. In northern Georgia, in places like Morgan County and Oconee County, it hasn't rained in three weeks. They desperately need it. In south Georgia, we're a little better off, but not far off,” Hand said. “It's gotten to the point with some of our earlier planted crops where if we don't get something, it could be bad. But we're not there yet. It's dry, but we're optimistic that the forecast for most of south Georgia next week has some opportunities. We're going to be optimistic.”

About half of the cotton-growing area is dryland without access to irrigation, making rainfall essential for many farmers.

“If it's hot enough and (the plants) come up, it could potentially kill them. If you didn't plant when there was enough moisture, they could wilt and die,” Hand said. “I would say the majority of our crop is probably ripe now. By the end of this week, we'll be at almost 50%. Once we start flowering, that's when it becomes really important. We need to start capturing rain and keeping the water on it when we start flowering. That's when the plants start filling up those flower pods and stuff like that.”

Anna Harden

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