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Panhandle and South Plains cotton crop forecast about half a normal year's

Panhandle and South Plains cotton crop forecast about half a normal year's

Most dryland cotton has failed in Texas panhandle and South Plains. Some growers have given up on partially irrigated cotton. A 2.5 million-bale crop estimate may be optimistic.  

Cotton is a "mixed bag" in the Panhandle and South Plains, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Most dryland cotton has failed, and in some areas, growers have given up on partially irrigated cotton as well. Also, there have been reports of odd plant development, most likely due to heat stress and lack of moisture.

"The cotton crop is suffering, for the most part, with lack of water when it was needed and is now showing up on boll set," reported Rick Auckerman, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent for Deaf Smith County, west of Amarillo. "There are cotton fields that have open bolls and blooms on the same plants. The cotton plants that are short of water have shed what bolls that they cannot support and are trying to finish out what is left."

"The small amount of cotton that was left in the county under irrigation has been cut off from water as producers are tired of paying input costs with cotton prices continuing to decline," said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent for Motley County, southeast of Amarillo. "They are afraid that the profit margin may be too slim to make any money this year."

"Cotton producers are dealing with a new late-season pest," said Mark Brown, Lubbock County. "These are very small thrips that cause cupping followed by defoliation of leaves. It is more prevalent in moisture-stressed cotton."

"We're getting all sorts of things out there this year," said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock. "We're getting blooms and bolls opening on the same plant. The blooms Rick (Auckerman) was probably talking about are probably further out on the fruiting nodes."

Despite some odd plant development, the terminal part of the plant on most cotton has shut down, Kelley noted, and harvest is going to be a little early this year.

"We've got some that could kick off harvesting anytime now. I've seen some fields that have been defoliated," he said. "It's just a matter of that stuff drying down. So I expect to see harvesting begin within the next week or so."

"Also, seed counts are down, so bolls won't be as "fluffy" as usual and quality may take a hit, he said.

Kelley said he's heard total crop projections of 2.5 million bales for the Panhandle and South Plains.

"I think that's kind of optimistic, myself," he said.

Last year, the region harvested 5.3 million bales, but that was a perfect year for cotton, Kelley said. A more average year would be about 4.4 million bales.

"But I don't know what an average year is anymore," he said.

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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