‘The climate is right for cotton’

A classroom discussion prompts a student to research and then grow cotton in the river bottoms, hill land

Garrett Heil, a sophomore at Norborne High School, has proven to his classmates cotton can be produced in the Missouri River Valley. Cotton is growing in land that took on at least five feet of sand in the Flood of 1993, a tract where other crops have struggled. (Photo by JoEllen Black/Richmond News)

By JoEllen Black, Publisher

In Southeast Missouri’s Bootheel, part of the Mississippi River Delta region, just five counties produce enough cotton to rank Missouri eighth in U.S. cotton production, according to University of Missouri Extension data.

So, nearly 400 miles away it would seem unlikely our region could grow cotton given the area’s cooler climate, shorter growing season and different soil type, right?

Fifteen-year-old Garrett, a sophomore at Norborne High School, has made it his hands-on assignment to prove it can be done.

“My son was told in his history class you couldn’t grow cotton here. And he was out to prove them wrong,” said Norborne farmer Chris Heil of his son. “So, he started doing research.”

What Garrett found was history was on his side. His studies revealed cotton was a primary crop prior to the Civil War in nearby Lafayette County – just across the river from his 100-acre plot of river-bottom cotton, which is now being harvested. He also learned cotton production was so plentiful that cotton gins operated in Dover and at Watkins Mill before it was converted to a woolen mill for uniforms for soldiers.

The complete story is in the Tuesday, November 21, 2017 Richmond News.

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