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Rains halted cotton harvest across Lower Coastal Bend

As September arrived, minor progress had been made with cotton harvest across the Lower Coastal Bend farming counties. The late maturing cotton crop was projected to be two to three weeks later than normal harvest completion. That was, of course, assuming no major weather-related interruptions. By the final day of August, many Nueces County farmers indicated they had completed harvest of only 35% to 40% of their cotton crop. In a typical year, the percentage of the crop harvested on August 31 is in excess of 95%.

Scattered showers dotted the cotton farmers’ fields throughout the final week of August. That caused harvest crews to hop and jump from field to field in search of locations that had missed soaking rains. But the frequency and intensity of those daily thundershowers had the majority of the cotton fields so wet by the end of the week that cotton harvest had slowed to a snail’s pace. Had the week’s weather remained bright and sunny, Nueces County would have been at the mid-way point in getting this season’s cotton crop out of the field and safely to the gin yard. Then came the Labor Day weekend blanking in excess of 90% of the Lower Coastal Bend Counties with a half-inch or more of rainfall.

The previous week of rain-soaked days caused September, which is historically the wettest month of the year for the South Texas region, to begin with very wet and muddy conditions. Rainfall on September 2 and 3 had been heavy enough in the area west of Driscoll and northwest of Bishop to cause water to run across FM 666 at some half-dozen sites between FM 70 to the south and FM 665 to the north. Many fields in that portion of southwestern Nueces County had standing water touching the bottom bolls of cotton at sites adjacent to overflowing roadside ditches and in the lower areas of these fields.

These conditions also slowed down ginning and had a couple of area gins halted for the holiday weekend due to no module arrivals. When cotton ginning is shut down in Nueces County on September 1, it usually means there has been a real short crop like last season’s drought disaster or that planted acres have dropped below 90,000 acres of cotton and only a modest crop had been produced.

Neither situation was the case in 2007. The growing season had been exceptionally wet. The amount of land planted to cotton was in excess of 110,000 acres in Nueces County alone and yield predictions on most fields were running at or above the bale and a half mark typical for the dryland production region in recent years.

The only thing that will turn the situation around is a couple of weeks of dry, sunny conditions that will allow picking and stripping harvest machines. Area farmers need a break in this weather pattern so that the 2007 crop can be gathered without any more delays or complications from the weather.

In closing, thanks to all those who were able to attend the retirement reception at the main arena of the new Richard M. Borchard Fairground in Robstown for Karen Vaughan who completed the final 25 years of her 34-year career with Texas Cooperative Extension serving the citizens of Nueces County. That retirement event was something like a “double -header” with concurrent accolades, since yours truly was also being honored. My service as Agricultural Agent for Nueces County spanned a couple months short of 25 years with a total of 37 years of total service as an Extension Agent working in Hidalgo, Pecos, Kennedy, and Kleberg Counties in the early portion of my career.

Thanks to the more than 250 well-wishers who attended and the wonderful group of volunteers who planned this heart-warming event. Also a big vote of thanks goes out to the many young folks in 4-H clubs and FFA chapters who contributed by baking cookies, parking cars, ushering visitors and serving food. These youngsters are our future and they deserve our support and praise for doing deeds to help others. Service has its rewards!

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