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Boll Rot takes 20 percent of Georgia's cotton crop

More cotton is set to open up throughout September, and if the rain continues, you may pay more down the road for clothes.

PULASKI COUNTY, Ga. — The State's cotton commission says 20 percent of this year's crop is rotting, and farmers are seeing boll rot shrivel up. 

It's a commodity that brings in three billion dollars a year for Georgia.

Credit: Suzanne Lawler

Blake Bledsoe is a fourth generation farmer from Pulaski County, and he says fall is usually a happy time anticipating the harvest.

But this year, it's anything but tranquil.

"I'd say we're just kind of in a lull of thinking oh my gosh, what if this doesn't pan out, what if we can't get what we need, or we break down during harvest," he explained.

The culprit behind these worries is a little thing called boll rot, that has big consequences.

It's ruined a fifth of the state's crop and it's a hazard to do more damage.

"The boll rot is caused by excessive moisture at the wrong time when the cotton is mature and tempting to open so it's water going into the bole and not drying out for an extended period of time," Bledsoe said.

Think of a cotton bale as a cake. You want it white and fluffy, but then this boll rot gets in and it affects its market grade which affects profit.

"This would go in as a color deduction as well as a fiber deduction which where cotton is today is about a dollar it will take that cotton down by 40 percent," Bledsoe said with bolls in his hand.  "So you're looking at this being 60 cents and this being worth a dollar."

Pennies right?  But it's big money when you've got 6,000 acres of the stuff.

Bledsoe could lose close to a quarter of a million dollars.

"So if you have a lot of this boll rot you're probably at break even, if it even works out like that," Bledsoe projected.

And it doesn't help that since the beginning of this year's planting season, farmers have dealt with price increases across the board.

"The fertilizer costs were double this time what we normally have and our fuel cost is double what we normally have. We have never experienced fuel above five dollars on the farm," he recalled.

More cotton is set to open up throughout September, and if the rain continues Bledsoe says you may pay more down the road for clothes.


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