Cotton may reign

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Staff Writer

Cotton just could be the lead crop in the county this season instead of a North Carolina staple, tobacco.
Farmers who harvest cotton, tobacco or peanuts may add more land to their farms. However, cotton is grown over massive amounts of land as tobacco can be grown in smaller fields, though farmers usually alternate between those cash crops.
Gaylon Ambrose, a Beaufort County agriculture extension agent, participated in a Cotton Field Day last week that informed people about cotton and the importance it plays in every community.
“In regard to the area of cotton versus tobacco,” he said, “there will be less acres of tobacco because it’s ‘high end.’ Though, historically, that’s nothing new. That’s how it’s always been.”
Ambrose said many farmers usually specialize in growing either cotton or tobacco in any given year. When cotton is grown, farmers use farming implements to prepare and fertilize the soil.
“It used to be that farmers would just grow the crop, in this case tobacco, and sell it as usual,” Ambrose said. “That’s how all farming was done. Now, it’s based on the need of the company the crop is being sold to, whether or not they need it or not.”
According to Ambrose, growers have a little more free rein with growing cotton than with growing tobacco.
“As far as cotton goes,” he said, “we typically had a pretty good crop in light of the draught this season.”
As for tobacco this year, most North Carolina flue-cured tobacco is at least two weeks behind in development, said W.K. Collins, an N.C. State University agronomist.
“Much hasn’t been harvested, and it’s September,” Collins said. “If we go like this much longer, early frost could be a problem.”
He said the majority of North Carolina’s tobacco was affected by the intense summer heat this year, with tobacco in the eastern part of the state hurt by the lack of rain in the region. However, he said, some areas in the east did receive a good amount of rainfall that countered the effects of the high heat.