I have shared some of the observations and activities from area cotton fields in posts this week. The USDA estimates Florida cotton acreage is up 16% from 108,000 acres in 2012 to 125,000 in 2013. The Suwannee Valley area has probably increased from less than 1,000 acres in 2012 to over 5,000 in 2013. Our farmers have rose to the occasion to address many of the issues unique to cotton production to grow a good crop.
Many of us believe that cotton “likes” a heavier soil with a clay base, which is missing from the more common soil types in this area. This creates special challenges, especially for non-irrigated production. We are seeing examples of these challenges after going from consistent, heavy rainfall to 14 days with minimal rain. Our soil types only hold 5 days of moisture in the top 2′ from completely full to completely empty during peak water demand. Some of the cotton varieties may be better adapted to these soil types, but our beginning cotton farmers don’t have the experience to know which varieties hold up best on their farm.
In a nutshell, I think right now we have tremendous opportunities, and in other fields we have fallen short. We have some fields where everything has gone right and have an outstanding boll load, to fields that are in drought stress and are at 3 nodes above white flower in the third week of bloom. In farming, there are no guarantees. We look forward to a safe and successful cotton harvest to learn how well cotton farming worked on a large scale in this area.