Will cotton grow in western Kentucky? If so, what is the best variety, type of seed, or plant? I just want to grow a short row to harvest for decorative purposes.
Hello, G: Cotton production is certainly part of history in western Kentucky. In the 1970’s it was replaced with wheat, corn and/or soybeans. As with all crops, price dictates what is grown and when one crop is not economically viable anymore it is replaced with another more profitable one. Loss of crop due to insect or disease issues is also reason to halt production. This could not be more true in the case of cotton. Cotton (Gossypium) fields were devastated during the 1970’s by boll weevils.
These insects are thought to have originally come from Mexico, making their way into the US cotton fields destroying the crop. The Boll Weevil Eradication Program was developed by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). It has been a very successful program and for this reason many cotton-growing states have regulations in terms of growing cotton in a noncommercial setting.
Kentucky does not fall into this category but Tennessee does and approval as well as pheromone traps are required for home gardeners to grow cotton. Given that the county you live in boarders Tennessee you might contact the Agriculture agent in the county directly South of you to see about being a good neighbor. All of the agriculture agents I spoke with in western Kentucky advise home gardeners against planting cotton because of the potential for attracting and spreading these insects. For more details, the following article is very informative: https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W330.pdf.