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Conditions look bleak for Texas cotton

Conditions look bleak for Texas cotton
All areas of state are under drought conditions. Cotton has failed in South Texas. Plantings at risk in Central Texas.

Many areas received rain, but in most of the Texas the agricultural situation remained extremely dire, according to reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Most everywhere, soil moisture remained short, except in North Texas, where despite good rains, they were reported as merely adequate. In most areas, wheat grown for grain has been lost or yields severely reduced, according to reports from AgriLife Extension county agents.

Cotton planting continued in areas where the planting window is later, such as the South Plains and Rolling Plains, but the situation in those regions doesn't look promising either, said Dr. Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension regional specialist based in Lubbock.

In an average year, the South Plains grows about 4 million acres of cotton, approximately 60 percent or more of the state's total acreage. Cotton has largely failed in South Texas, and the plantings are at risk in Central Texas. Because the planting window is later in the South Plains, and there was hope the drought conditions would lift in time for cotton, Kelley said.

"We've been in the planting window for a while now," he said.  "It's just we're having issues keeping the ground wet enough, even under irrigated situations, to get a good stand."

Farmers with center pivots are able to get the planting zone wet enough to get a good emergence, Kelley said. Those with only drip irrigation—unless they have the option to roll water (surge irrigation) or have a sprinkler system over the drip—are having trouble keeping the moisture high enough in the soil profile to plant.

"For the dryland guys, the moisture is non-existent. We've got some that are trying to trickle seed in to the dry dirt and just hope for rain," he said."It's looking pretty bleak here."

Meanwhile, the opportunities for planting to produce a viable crop and to meet crop insurance deadlines are fast approaching. The insurance deadline for north of Lubbock, around Parmer and Bailey counties, is about May 31. Around Lubbock the deadline is about June 5 and south of Lubbock, June 10, he said.

The outlook in the Rolling Plains is about the same as the South Plains, Kelley said.

"They may have enough moisture to get cotton up, but to keep it going they're going to have to have more," he said. "They're going to have to have a lot more."

From a national standpoint, Texas is a “minor player” in feed grains, said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head of the soil and crop sciences department, College Station. But Texas typically plants about half the cotton acreage in the U.S., so a large-scale crop failure here could have a large impact on prices nationally.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at .

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