As harvest gets closer, agronomists and farmers in southeast Missouri are optimistic about the rice and cotton crops.
Gene Stevens, a University of Missouri Extension agronomist based at the Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville, said the amount of sunny days has helped the rice and cotton crops.
“For rice and cotton both, they like a lot of sunshine,” he said. “This year we’ve had pretty seasonal rains, but the days it’s not raining it’s been pretty clear.”
Spring rains caused some planting delays, but the crops have been able to make up most of the gap with generally agreeable growing conditions.
“We kind of got delayed this spring,” Stevens said, speaking on Aug. 25. “A lot of our rice is not headed yet. I think we’re maybe a week late.”
He said that while rice and cotton have reputations as hot weather crops, more mild conditions experienced this summer, with highs in the high 80s or low 90s, can be good.
“I think we’re looking at a good crop for both,” Stevens said.
The cotton in southeast Missouri is about 80% irrigated and 20% non-irrigated, he said, although rains are still helpful and cheaper than running irrigation systems.
“Even though we can irrigate, it’s still good to get those regular rains,” Stevens said.
He said some of the non-irrigated cotton is not faring as well this year.
Stevens said the August USDA estimate for cotton yield in Missouri is 1,331 pounds per acre, higher than any state in the Southeast and topped nationwide only by the estimates for California and Arizona.
“The cotton’s really loaded up with a lot of bolls,” Stevens said. “I think it’s because we’ve had a lot of sunny days.”
In particular, sunshine during cotton’s “squaring period,” usually around late June, can make a difference.
“I’ve noticed when we’ve had a lot of cloudy days then, we’ve been disappointed at harvest,” Stevens said. “But this year we’ve had a lot of sunshine.”
Pat Seyer farms in Scott and Stoddard counties in southeast Missouri. He grows rice, along with corn, soybeans and wheat. He said things are on track for the rice.
“Rice looks okay,” he said. “The crops are looking good.”
He has mostly caught regular rains during the growing season, which has helped cut down on the amount of time he’s had to run the irrigation system.
“It’s nice catching rains because it saves you from trying to irrigate,” Seyer said.
Missouri is a top-five producer of rice.