Prices drop, diseases increase for Georgia cotton farmers

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Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 7:46 PM EDT
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LEARY, Ga. (WALB) - A few months ago, Bob Kemerait, a plant pathologist at the University of Georgia, was on high alert because of the potential damage from southern corn rust.

“The disease has been very much of a problem but I would say that fortunately many of our growers have been proactive in south Georgia,” Kemerait said.

He says fungicide application has been integral in keeping the crop alive, and just as important, strong. Tuesday, South Georgia farms saw 40-mile-per-hour wind gusts from storms that rolled in.

Cotton prices fell in June from fear of recession and the war and Ukraine
Cotton prices fell in June from fear of recession and the war and Ukraine(WALB)

“Stock integrity means everything to avoid lodging. So for our growers, I think it’s proof that protecting with the fungicide was an important thing,” Kemerait said.

Farmers also have to weigh costs. Fungicide is three to four times more expensive than last year, so farmers must be efficient. Additionally, Kemerait says he’s seen significantly more disease than normal this year.

“If you look at the environment in which we are in—hot, humid, white conditions like we have now. Sporadic rainfall is extremely conducive for it,” Kemerait said.

He says too much rainfall followed by a period of dry can damage crops and be a perfect storm for disease. Tom Windhausen is a grower who has felt that pressure.

“A roller coaster between wet and dry. There’s a lot of disease and insect pressure coming to cotton and the same thing in peanuts,” Windhausen said.

Bob Kemerait says he is also watching corn tar, a newer disease.

“You do know that it’s the second year it’s been here and it seems like this disease is now established in our state. It remains to be seen how much damage it will cause over time,” Kemerait.

As Tom Windhausen is sending his grandchildren off on their first days of school, he is worried about how he will be able to feed them.

“It’s absolutely insane. Insane what we’re seeing with prices. There’s no stability in the market.”

Prices soared to $1.60 in May, then fell to $1.00 in July.

“It was a profit last week, it would be a loss next week,” Windhausen said.

Luke Crosson, agriculture and natural resources agent from the University of Georgia, says he and the UGA Extension Office are doing all they can to give the best advice to farmers like Windhausen with the price volatility.

Luke Crosson works for the University of Georgia as an Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent
Luke Crosson works for the University of Georgia as an Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent(WALB)

“It’s a lot like the stock market, it doesn’t like a lot of uncertainty. The war in Ukraine, fears of a recession, and United States causes a lot of volatility,” Crosson said.

For that reason, Crosson says a price increase at the store is not because of him or other farmers. Crosson says farmers can lock in prices before the season starts but can only lock in a certain amount due to yield uncertainty. Windhausen says deciding when to lock in prices is difficult.

“We get paid once a year. I get a paycheck once a year on my crop. Until that day comes, we don’t know what’s going to be a profit or a loss,” Windhausen said.

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