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Tracking Hurricane Ian: Gro Sees Risk to Georgia’s Cotton Crop

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Hurricane Ian is expected to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds to the southeastern US, threatening Georgia’s cotton crop as it moves through the region. This comes after a season when the cotton crop in Texas, the US’ largest cotton producing state, suffered from a severe drought that decimated production, as Gro highlighted here

Further losses out of Georgia could push US cotton ending stocks to their lowest levels in nearly a decade. The US is the world’s third largest cotton producer and the world’s top cotton exporter. 

This Gro display highlights where cotton acres are planted in the US Southeast. As of Sunday, bolls-opening in Georgia was 74% complete, meaning that the majority of Georgia’s crop is now at high risk for significant wind and rain damage. 

Georgia is the second largest US cotton producing state, accounting for roughly 15% of US cotton production. While Georgia’s planted cotton area pales in comparison to Texas’ cotton acreage, Georgia has historically produced a much higher yielding crop, as seen in this Gro portal display.

Georgia's cotton crop is likely to suffer a reduction in yield and quality as Hurricane Ian passes through because heavy precipitation on opened cotton bolls damages plant fibers and contributes to lint loss. Crops could feel the impact for weeks due to initial damage from the storm, followed by farmers’ inability to get heavy equipment into flooded fields for harvest which begins in earnest over the next few weeks. 

The GFS forecast from now through Saturday shows Ian pounding the areas of Georgia with upwards of five inches of rain. 

The last time a major hurricane hit Georgia was Hurricane Michael in 2018, devastating the cotton area in Georgia. Similar amounts of rainfall were observed and nearly 482,000 acres of cotton fields were indemnified. In October 2018, payments made by private insurance companies to farm operators for their insured cotton losses amounted to $152 million in Georgia alone. In 2018, Georgia cotton production declined by 12%, with yield falling 14% versus the previous year. 

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