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Clear weather permits cotton farmers to play catch up

DAN SMITH Floyd County Texas cotton farmer finishes planting his 2015 crop following weather delays With adequate moisture in the soil cotton has the potential to make good yields if summer and fall weather is favorable
<p>DAN SMITH, Floyd County, Texas, cotton farmer, finishes planting his 2015 crop following weather delays. With adequate moisture in the soil cotton has the potential to make good yields if summer and fall weather is favorable.</p>
&ldquo;If we have a good summer and a good fall, we have potential to make 3.5 to 4 million bales.&rdquo;

A week of clear, warm weather the last few days of May and the first week of June permitted Southern Plains cotton farmers to make headway against planting deadlines and likely will lower the number of prevented planting claims.

“We’re clicking along pretty good now,” says Steve Verett, executive vice president, Plains Cotton Growers, in Lubbock, Texas. “Most will get cotton in. Producers with a June 10 planting deadline are in good shape, and the ones with a June 5 deadline have been working hard to finish. Farmers with a June 20 deadline are on schedule.”

Those in May 31 planting deadline areas likely did not get as much cotton in as they had planned. “They had a rain right on top of that deadline,” Verett says. Cotton farmers in those counties were not expected to match last year’s 581,000 acres, even without the rain delay.

“That was the biggest area where farmers had decided to switch to other crops,” Verett says. “We may see only 300,000 to 350,000 acres instead of the intended 581,000.”

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Prevented planting claims that may have looked more certain two weeks ago are less so with the recent clear weather. “We will have prevented planting claims,” he says, “but the question is whether farmers will take prevented planting or switch to other crops. Some fields in the June 5 planting deadline counties will take prevented plantings.”

Some fields, for instance, remain under water or are too soggy to work. Those are more likely prospects for prevented planting claims. “In some cases, prevented planting makes sense,” Verett says. “But most of the June 5 area will be planted, and so will the June 10 area.”

The early deadline counties make up the smallest acreage in the PCG area. June 5 counties planted 2.066 million acres last year and June 10 planted 1.1 million. With some acreage below the Caprock, June 20 acreage combined with June 10 acreage accounts for about 1.25 million acres.

“Overall, I feel pretty good about where we are,” Verett says. “If we have a good summer and a good fall, we have potential to make 3.5 to 4 million bales.” With good soil moisture to get the crop started, dryland cotton has a good opportunity to make good yields.

He says the wet May, which came close to setting a new record for the wettest May on record in the Lubbock area, “creates a different set of challenges. It’s one thing to plant in the dust, but it’s just as distressing to have good moisture and not be able to take advantage of it.”

The past week has offered cotton farmers an opportunity to make use of that moisture. “Conditions have changed,” Verett says. “We got some rain last Thursday (May 28). It was clear Saturday and Sunday and the rest of this week. Wind has not been an issue for most producers, either. We had a little dust stirred up for a day or two, but no 30 to 40 mile per hour winds.”

A few areas in Northwest Texas and around Dalhart had some rain late in the week. “But they already had their cotton in,” he says. Some area reservoirs have recharged with the May rainfall. “Allen Henry is full,” Verett says. “J.B. Thomas is 75 percent full.” Several others have been slow to recharge.”

He says conditions are significantly better than they were just two weeks ago.

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