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Texas cotton faces early weather setbacks

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Persistent drought concerns West Texas cotton farmers as they get ready to plant, but cotton offers the best chance of making a crop in dry conditions.
Wet, cold, wind and drought hamper Texas cotton early on.

Texas cotton farmers have just completed, are in the process of completing, or just getting ready to start a planting season that’s “the polar opposite of last year.” Weather delays and setbacks persist across the state as cotton farmers plant what is expected to be 6 percent more acreage than last year, 7.3 million acres.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist Gaylon Morgan, College Station, says cotton planting is late in some areas, set back after planting in others, replanted in many fields and facing drought from severe to exceptional where producers are just getting ready to plant.

“Everything is behind compared to last year,” Morgan says. “Last year we had good weather; this year is the polar opposite.”

He says the Rio Grande Valley started planting later than usual and in dry conditions. “They are still in drought. Most of the area is in at least moderate drought status.”

He says the Coastal Bend area got started late, too, “but got planted and looked good until high winds, 70 to 80 miles per hour, ripped cotton plants to shreds. Some are replanting, even this late.”

The Upper Gulf Coast planted and then had two cold spells that set the crop back and spurred seedling disease outbreaks. “We’ve seen similar conditions in the Southern Blacklands. They got planted in warm conditions that was followed by cold spells. Some has been replanted.”

An area with renewed interest in cotton, the Northern Blacklands, will see a significant acreage bump, Morgan says, “thanks to Pat Pilgrim (Pilgrim is contracting acres similar to how the Pilgrim company once ran their poultry business.). His acreage is increasing.”

Morgan reports “planters in Northeast Texas were rolling fast this weekend and they continue this week.

“The Rolling Plains and Southern High Plains are gearing up to start planting in a couple of weeks,” Morgan says, but they face a persistent drought. “Most of the Rolling Plains and on up into Lubbock are in drought from severe to extreme with some pockets rated as exceptional drought.

“A few very small pockets in the Southern High Plains and down into the San Angelo area got some rain this week,” Morgan says. “Some key cotton areas got some much needed rains, as much as an inch, but all of West Texas needs a wide-spread rain to have adequate planting moisture.”

He says the persistent drought offers planting and season-long challenges but doesn’t expect weather to influence planting intentions. “Most have made up their minds now,” he says.  “And cotton offers a better opportunity than other crops in drought conditions.”

 

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