Typically, gins finish their work by late December. “Last year, the ginning season extended into March in some areas,” said Scott Stiles, Extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, adding “We’ll see that again this year.”
What is a gin? A cotton gin is a machine used to separate cotton seeds from cotton fiber. Invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, it dramatically improved the process. Learn more : The Cotton Gin: Definition, History & Impact at Study.com.
Despite wet weather delays, growers were optimistic about their 2019 crop. “Going into November we’d been at our second-best average,” said Bill Robertson, Extension cotton agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The annual Arkansas Crop Production report, issued January 10 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, put Arkansas’ state average cotton yield at 1,102 pounds per acre in 2019, down 31 pounds from 2018. Harvested acres were up 27% over 2018 to 610,000 acres. Total bales were estimated at 1.4 million, up 24% from 2018.
“We had some phenomenal cotton yields in this state this year,” Stiles said. “NASS pegged the cotton yield at less than 2017 and less than 2018. Bill and I are both a little – no, a lot surprised by that.”
“Every year is a tough year and every year has its challenge,” Robertson said. “Last year, we had challenges on the front end and challenges on the back end. We only had half of our cotton planted riding into the Memorial Day weekend.
“It was the same thing when we harvested. We started with excellent harvest conditions for the first half, then we started getting rain,” he said. “Planting was dragged out, and it was almost the same with harvest.
“I still think we ended up really good,” Robertson said. “We had several consultants tell me, ‘I thought it would be 1,200 pounds,’ which would be a new state record.”
Still, he said “1,102 is not that shabby – that would be fifth on the all-time list.”
However, growers who saw yields of 1,100 pounds per acre are probably going to have a hard time paying all the bills, Robertson said.
Stiles said the discrepancy between grower expectations and what NASS reported may be due in part to the workloads Arkansas’ cotton gins are now facing because of increased cotton acres this year and strong yields.
“Fields of White Gold: Remembering a Forgotten Time in the Arkansas Delta”, by George Ann Byrd Danehower
Once in a great while, a book captures the essence of a particular place and time. George Ann Byrd Danehower has done this with her first book of non-fiction short stories, set in the 1930s-1950s and centered in Mississippi County, Arkansas, at the northeastern corner of the state along the western bank of the Mississippi River. Her book is alive with detailed memories of “Daddy,” “Mother,” “Ruth,” “Papa and Mama Edwards,” and her siblings and countless relatives, friends, teachers, and customers, as well as characters like the Medicine Man, the Witch, the TB Lady, Tight the hired hand, and Caleb the thief and murderer. She tells of growing up in her family’s “house-store” in Mandalay, Arkansas, which was surrounded by “fields of white gold” (cotton), and then later in the small Arkansas town of Blytheville. As George Ann (her given name) points out in her Introduction: “We Southerners do love our tradition of storytelling; often our stories cause us to laugh to keep us from crying.” Each story captures a vivid memory of growing up in Arkansas, with its fierce natural beauty, strong family traditions, and complex social challenges.