From drought to drenched, Delta cotton farmers worry about too much rain

Published 6:46 pm Friday, July 13, 2007

First it didn’t rain enough for Mississippi Delta farmers. Now it’s raining too much.

After more than 8 inches of rain in Leflore County since mid-June, including 3.24 inches combined last Friday and Saturday, some crops are receiving too much water as the harvest nears.

“The concern would be for cotton,” said Billy Whittington, who farms near Money. “It doesn’t need as much water as it is getting.”

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The rainfall turnaround came after the area received just 0.95 inches of rain through June 18, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Fairly said.

The Greenwood Leflore Airport received 4.05 inches of rain on June 19 and has gotten more than 4 inches since.

Jerry Singleton, a Leflore County Extension Service agent, said initially the rain was welcomed.

“Overall, it has had a very positive effect,” he said. “Farmers have been able to turn the irrigation pumps off and reduce their use of diesel fuel and electricity for their pumps as a result.”

Singleton said now that there’s enough rain to nurse a thirsty corn crop to harvest, a return to hot, dry weather is needed.

Whittington told the Greenwood Commonwealth that too much rainfall poses a problem for soybeans and cotton, especially in poorly drained fields.

“If you’ve got any place where water is standing, you’ve got trouble,” Whittington said.

Cloudy days with mild temperatures don’t help cotton either.

“Too many cloudy days will make cotton shed fruit,” Whittington said.

He said cotton plants need the heat to sustain their growth, so daytime temperatures lower than normal become a problem.

Whittington joked that farmers are never satisfied, adding that if the rain had come a bit earlier, everything would have been fine.

“It would have helped twice as much if it had come two or three weeks earlier,” he said.