Local farmer Wendy Yeager prepares to start her combine to harvest cotton on Tuesday.  Wendy and her husband Jamie Yeager grow more than 200 acres of the crop near Orrville.--Josh Bergeron
Local farmer Wendy Yeager prepares to start her combine to harvest cotton on Tuesday. Wendy and her husband Jamie Yeager grow more than 200 acres of the crop near Orrville.-- Josh Bergeron

Cotton yield looks promising in Black Belt

Published 8:18pm Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Whirring combines are turning up some of the best cotton yields in years because of above-average summer rainfall totals.

Prattville Agricultural Research Unit director Don Moore said early yields are the best he has seen in 30 years.

“There’s no question about it, we got lots of rainfall this year,” Moore said. “We didn’t get too much; it was just right. I’ve been here for over 30 years and this is the best year I’ve seen.”

Moore’s rain gauge in Prattville measured 5.6 inches of rain in June, 7.5 inches in July and 5.5 inches in August. The numbers are above average for the area. Selma’s average rainfall ranges from 4 to 5 inches during summer months.

One farming family turned the summer rainfall into what seems to be a winning formula.

As local farmers Jamie and Wendy Yeager began harvesting a plot of cotton near Orrville on Tuesday, they were pleasantly surprised by the highest yields they had ever seen.

“It’s only a small sample size, but this is some of the best cotton we have ever grown,” Jamie Yeager said. “I don’t think we will have the same luck across all of our fields, but things are looking good right now.”

Though he was happy with early yields, Yeager said he was anxious early in the season.

“The rain really fell perfectly and it cut off at the right time,” he said. “It was wet during the spring and the crop was hard to get in the ground, but we did it. At the beginning, I did feel a little nervous about how things might turn out.”

Yeager said he usually looks for two bales of cotton per acre, which is approximately 500 pounds. After harvesting 40 acres, Yeager had 90 bales, which is slightly above his goal.

Cotton harvest isn’t over yet. The husband and wife pair finished the 40-acre plot on Tuesday but have nearly 200 acres to go. Yeager said he will continue harvesting cotton until the middle of November.

After harvest is complete, the cotton seeds will be sold at a gin and later sold.

Between harvest and the sale, each farmer’s cotton will be rated for quality, which determines the price that buyers pay. Early numbers on cotton quality are sketchy at best because of the federal government shutdown, Alabama Farmers Federation director of news services Mary Johnson said.

“The U.S.D.A. usually compiles those reports, but with the federal government shutdown, we don’t know where we are at,” Johnson said. “It’s not really a big deal to not have that information, but it does make it difficult to find out how far along we are.”

 

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