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Scattered rains do little to help High Plains cotton

USDA cotton production estimates probably too high for High Plains. Crop will struggle to make predicted 2.57 million bales. Irrigation struggling to meet crop demands.

Although the latest USDA estimates project that cotton growers in the High Plains area will produce 2.57 million bales, current crop conditions tell what could be a slightly different story when this crop ultimately is harvested.

For the first time in Plains Cotton Growers’ history, all that production will be on irrigated acreage, as cotton planted on dryland acreage in the area never emerged due to the historic drought.

Experts describe a “mixed bag” of conditions across the area. Northern areas of the High Plains received some moisture recently. Keith Mixon, manager at Carson County Co-op Gin in White Deer, said about 1.6 inches of rain fell there earlier this week. That rain relieved producers there a little, he said, but the crop as a whole is about two weeks early and getting close to cut-out. 

“We have places where (the cotton) is really good, some where it’s so-so, and some where it’s not,” Mixon said.

Eric Best, agronomist with Monsanto, said most irrigated acreage that he’s seen developed early, going into first bloom at four to five nodes above white flower. Water supplies have dwindled, he said, and pivots are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.

Best said much of the crop he’s seen is about three to four weeks early and has finished blooming.

“There are still some bright spots, but those are few and far between where growers have better water,” Best said.

Some areas did receive precipitation Thursday evening. The National Weather Service estimated as much as one to two inches falling across parts of the South Plains as a large mass of rain and thunderstorms moved through the region.

Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers, said that based on reports from producers and other industry experts, he expects High Plains production to be less than the 2.57 million bales currently projected by the USDA.

“There’s still time for some of this cotton to benefit from continued watering or, better yet, a good rain within the next week or so as it continues to build yield potential,” Verett said. “But for the most part, what’s out there is what we can count on carrying to harvest.”



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