Cotton farmers hope to avoid hurricane weather

By Dal Cannady - bio | email

CLAXTON, GA (WTOC) - Cotton farmer Gary Bell and others are relieved Hurricanes Earl and Fiona won't even bring rain this way. Weather over the summer already had many cotton farmers harvesting early this year.

"We got it planted on time," Bell explained. "But a very hot summer sped up the maturity of it. So we're running 10 days to two weeks ahead."

The early part of the crop suffered from weeks of consecutive 90 and 100 degree days. Farmers are picking before they lose any more fiber to the weather of Gaston or any other storm. The Bell family has 750 acres of cotton they hope to have harvested by mid-October.

"Half of our crop is ready to pick now and the other half, the bolls are just about to open," Bell said. "Neither one of those halves needs rain."

Many hope the late part can make up for smaller yields in the early fields. Mike Dollar, Evans County's UGA extension director, calls this a "truly split crop".

"The early part of it didn't do well from the heat so soon in the summer, but our later planted cotton that has not opened up yet does have potential to make a very good cotton crop." Dollar explained.

With their time table shifted, farmers said they don't need anymore surprises from the weather. Bell said the later cotton could still overcome a single day of gentle rain, if sunshine returned quickly.

"We don't need three days of rain, followed by three or four days the week after that. That could do a lot of damage," Bell explained.

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