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South Plains blasted by high winds, hail

It's about half-past June in the Texas South Plains and conditions indicate a good chance growers will make a typical cotton crop.

“We typically abandon about 17 percent of our planted acreage,” says Texas Extension cotton specialist Randy Boman, Lubbock.

Combined damage from two or three storms and another prolonged drought in the lower tip of the South Plains, could add up to more than a 500,000 acre loss, before the growing season gets a good start, Boman says.

Two particular weather events, one on May 27 and another June 5, took a heavy toll in several counties around Lubbock.

“According to early estimates from the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., and other sources, loss from those two storms could be 125,000 acres,” Boman says. “We had other minor weather events that contributed to losses as well.”

Roger Haldenby, with PCG, says a storm packing winds exceeding 78 miles per hour roared through Shallowater, Abernathy, Petersburg, Floydada and Lockney June 5, leaving downed power lines and hail-damaged crops in its wake.

Rainfall ranged from one to three inches with pea-sized to marble-sized hail. Two hours later another storm hit, with little rain but hailstones as large as golf balls battering newly emerged cotton, grain sorghum and other crops.

“We heard reports from Hale and Floyd Counties of baseball-sized hail,” Haldenby says.

Total acreage affected by the June 5 storms could reach 250,000 with as much as 100,000 acres lost.

“A lot of the cotton wiped out in a May 27 storm had been replanted,” Boman says, “but replanting after the June damage may be iffy, depending on the cutoff date for crop insurance. Chances are good that farmers who had acreage wiped out from the June 5 storm will replant if they really want to grow cotton. Otherwise, they may switch to grain sorghum.

“From here on farmers who lose cotton will not have enough time to plant and make a crop,” Boman says. He adds that the crop insurance deadlines are not hard and fast.

“Guaranteed yield drops 1 percent per day for every day past the deadline,” he says. “So some farmers may still elect to replant cotton.”

“On the other extreme, somewhere approaching 500,000 acres of cotton in the PCG 25-county area remains parched in drought conditions,” Haldenby says.

“They've had no rain in Yoakum, Gaines or Dawson counties,” Boman says. “They likely will not make a stand.”

He says the combined acreage from rain and hail damage and drought totals about 600,000. “Assuming a usual 4 million acres planted, that's about our usual abandonment,” he says.

But it's early and the crop remains vulnerable to the West Texas weather.

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