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High Plains cotton growers face irrigation decisions

High Plains cotton growers face irrigation decisions

Drought has accelerated cotton crop maturity. Communicate with insurance agent before failing acreage or diverting water. Growers considering irrigation termination are advised to follow their usual management keys.  

With the dog days of summer in full force and reports of deteriorating crop conditions becoming more and more prevalent, cotton producers on the Texas High Plains are in the process of deciding when to terminate irrigation activities. It is also bringing many growers to the realization that their crop essentially has matured to the point that it has set all of the potential yield it can and may not be worth carrying to harvest.

For growers in the latter situation, crop insurance rules permit the initiation of boll count appraisals as soon as the crop can be determined to have reached the "mature" stage of development. In crop insurance parlance, cotton has reached the "mature" stage when it is determined that it "has set all of the bolls that will contribute to the ultimate yield."

Even though the calendar says it is only August 12, this year's drought has put many irrigated acres at this stage of development. Growers wanting to have their crops evaluated using the boll count method should contact their insurance provider, indicate the stage of the crop in question and request an appraisal be scheduled.

At the other end of the spectrum are producers who have crops that are at or near the mature stage, but still have enough yield potential that it is unlikely to be failed after a boll count appraisal, or are still actively blooming and setting bolls. In these instances, the decision for the grower is how long they need to continue irrigation to finish out the last of their yield or if they are already past cutout by several days, when they need to terminate irrigation to the crop.

In order to assist with those decisions, Dr. Mark Kelley and Dr. Wayne Keeling of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service have produced a timely reference document entitled, appropriately enough, "Texas High Plains 2011Cotton Irrigation Termination." Growers considering irrigation termination are advised to follow their usual management keys in relation to the maturity level of the crop and how long it is expected to take to mature the last of the bolls they will carry to harvest.   

A full version of the document, with detailed explanations of the various stages of growth that exist within the 2011 High Plains cotton crop, as well as irrigation management recommendations, is available on the Plains Cotton Growers website at


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