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Far below average, Extension says: Texas cotton crop hit hard by drought

Due to the recent hot and dry conditions late in the season, the state's cotton crop is far below average, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.

“Currently there are less yields than last year due to the current conditions,” said Dr. Carl Anderson, an Extension cotton marketing economist in College Station. “But there have not been many insect or disease problems because of the sudden hot weather right after planting.”

“It looks like it's going to be a fairly early crop with a somewhat lower yield potential,” said Dr. Randal Boman of Lubbock, Extension agronomist. “But on the bright side there are fewer insect problems than last year. The boll weevil situation is much better than we would have anticipated at this time last year.”

Boman said they had a good winter so the numbers of weevils are down across much of the area.

“It is estimated that we will have less than 2 million bales of cotton (in the High Plains),” Boman said. “The normal planting intention is 3.6 million acres. But because of high temperatures and drought we are standing at 2.4 million acres.”

Anderson said the Rio Grande Valley received too much rain in March, which is the planting season. Producers planted approximately 275,000 acres of cotton this year, and in April, the weather turned very dry and stayed dry during the remainder of the growing season, he said.

“Cotton in south Texas is mostly harvested,” Anderson said. “The Coastal Bend, which planted approximately 725,000 acres, is making rapid progress with over half of its cotton crop harvested.”

Producers in the High Plains had a hard time keeping enough water on plants while temperatures were high, stressing irrigated cotton.

“Cotton here in Lubbock is still being irrigated,” Boman said. “We have a lot of fields that are just now going into cutout, which means the bolls will stop being generated by the plant. We will then let those bolls mature out.”

Boman expects cotton in his area to be harvested at its normal time — about mid-September. “The High Plains and Rolling Plains areas have most of the Texas cotton crop with about 5 million acres of the 6.2 million acres planted in Texas,” Anderson said. “Dryland cotton faltered because of a lack of moisture and high temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, which devastated the dryland crop.”

“It looks like it's going to be a fairly early crop with a some-what lower yield potential.”

Boman said energy costs are higher for irrigation this year. Without rainfall to help out, costs are increasing, he said.

“In Lubbock we had the second warmest July on record, only a 10th degree off of the all time high which occurred in 1934,” Boman said. “It has been a tough year from the standpoint of rainfall and expenses for crops and relative irrigation.”

The Blackland area, which is in the center of Texas from Austin to north of Dallas, has not begun harvesting, Anderson said. Approximately 190,000 acres of cotton were planted in this area. Producers there usually harvest at the end of August to the beginning of September, he said.

“This is the third drought that has reduced the state's cotton crop in the past four years,” Anderson said.

Boman said there has been no substantial rain in the South Plains since May. There was less than an inch of rain in June and July, and that was not countywide: it was localized near the weather station.

“We've had a considerable amount of dryland cotton fail due to drought,” Boman said. “It is estimated at least 800,000 acres are in jeopardy.”

He said two huge hail and wind storms destroyed 400,000 acres. More than 2 million acres of cotton has likely been lost.

“The next step for many producers is waiting for insurance adjustors to evaluate the fields for insurance purposes,” Anderson said. “Many producers are concerned about financing.”

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