Cotton crop rebounds this year across tri-county

Huge rolls of cotton sit ready for ginning on a cotton farm in Lee County near Mayesville.
Huge rolls of cotton sit ready for ginning on a cotton farm in Lee County near Mayesville.

For the past two years, cotton farmers and gin owners have suffered through two down seasons, first because of the floods in October 2015 and then because of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

This year, cotton farmers in the area have rebounded, according to Clemson Extension Agent David DeWitt.

"The crop seems to be doing quite well, and we have had good picking weather," he said Wednesday. "Gins are being busy."

James Johnson, owner of Mayesville Gin, seems anxious to get all the cotton in.

"The cotton crop is good; we just need to get it all harvested," he said.

Johnson estimated about 50 percent of the cotton has been picked.

"We're blessed, and we hope the weather continues to be favorable for the complete harvest," he said.

Farmers are harvesting about two bales per acre, he said.

"That's high. That's the kind of yield we've been needing," DeWitt said.

Soybean harvest is getting started, he said.

"People have been cutting soybeans for a couple of weeks now," DeWitt said.

The soybean crop looks good, he said, but some pockets were hit by hot, dry weather late in August, which may have cut the yields.

"Overall, I think most of the area is going to enjoy a full season of good things," DeWitt said.

Commodity prices still aren't where farmers would like them to be, he added.

"They are holding on steady. Nothing has changed much in the last year and a half," he said.

DeWitt said the final yield numbers for corn are still not in yet.

"I know the dryland corn was excellent," he said. "Where we normally might cut 90 to 110 bushels to an acre on dryland, people got from 140 to 180 bushels."

Corn farmers who irrigated have been a little disappointed, however.

"Some irrigated corn did not do as well," he said. "We got so much rain, and some of that is the better land that holds water a little, and they might have had some excess water. They were hoping for 250 or 260 bushels and might have cut 200 or 210."

Winter wheat is being planted now, but DeWitt said he doesn't expect farmers to plant many acres of it.

"It hasn't been a good crop for us the last couple of years. Most people didn't get good yields this spring when they cut," he said. "There is just not a potential for profit in wheat."

DeWitt said he has been on a statewide tour advising farmers about the state's hemp program, which will allow a limited number of farmers to grow hemp.

He said there has been a lot of interest in the Pee Dee area and in Orangeburg County.

"The Department of Agriculture," he said, "is supposed to select the 20 permits next week."