Several days of sun has begun drying out the soggy Arkansas cotton crop, but cool nights are preventing many plants from maturing and giving growers yet another headache in a miserable year.

Several days of sun has begun drying out the soggy Arkansas cotton crop, but cool nights are preventing many plants from maturing and giving growers yet another headache in a miserable year.
"This is a mess," Cooperative Extension Service economist Scott Stiles said Monday.
Low temperatures are forecast to be in the 40s in the state's north and in the 50s to the south over the next couple of nights, with only modest warming in the days following.
Growers who planted early and whose bolls opened in early September wound up in many cases watching seeds sprout in their bolls as rain soaked the cotton. Some bolls hardlocked, which is when the cotton doesn't fluff out, and others had rot.
The sunshine and low humidity will help the cotton dry. But growers who planted late are still waiting for some of their cotton to begin opening.
"I don't think with the extended forecast all that much heat will be able to accumulate," said Branon Thiesse, Craighead County extension agent.
Of the 490,000 acres planted with cotton, as much as 40 percent went in early and typically should be ready for harvest now. That acreage will feel the greatest damage from the rain, Stiles said.
The bolls that remained closed during the September rain can be forced open with chemicals, which normally isn't necessary.
"We will defoliate more green cotton than we have in a long time," extension service cotton specialist Tom Barber said. "Some in the first week of October may not have one open boll."
"We needed a warm September to speed up development and we didn't get it," Barber said, noting that smaller bolls at the top of plants will stay green and closed.
The 2008 cotton crop was valued at $349 million. It isn't yet clear how much this year's crop will be worth.
"We need to (finish the harvest) before the first frost hits," Barber said.
Some growers who defoliated prior to September rains may have to make a second application. New leaves are coming out on some of those plants, Stiles said.
Stiles said the harvest is something of a salvage operation for some growers.
"You can't put quality back into the crop. What good weather does, it slows the rate of decay and decline in the crop," Stiles said.
Thiesse recalled a squall near Jonesboro about a week ago in which rain came down in torrents for 45 minutes straight, dropping an estimated 2 to 3 inches.
"There were beans that were under for 2-3 days. They were history. You could smell them," Thiesse said. "It was horrible."
Cotton wasn't the only crop hit hard by the rains.
"We've had corn sprouting on the cob, milo sprouting in the head, and rice, too," Thiesse said. "This has been a weird year."