It's been several years since Texas coastal cotton received substantial rainfall during the growing season, but in spite of late planting and slow development, early predictions are that large areas of the Northern Coastal Bend as far north as Harris County may be in for good quality and fair yields.

Headed south to the middle and lower Coastal Bend, the cotton season was a wash for almost every grower as drought conditions continued to plague South Texas.

Further south in the Rio Grande Valley, dryland cotton failed to produce much of a crop, but most irrigated cotton got a boost from substantial yet spotty showers throughout the summer, and early harvest reports indicate many acres are showing promising yields and exceptional quality.

"We've got beautiful cotton, just not on as much ground as we would like or expect compared to what we are used to having, but we have some fabulous cotton here so far this year," reports Brad Cowan, Hidalgo County Extension Agent.

Cowan says it all comes down to who had the water this year, in terms of irrigation water, but more importantly "which crops were under the right cloud at the right time.

"It was good for the guys that got water, which wasn't in very many places, but for those that did get the rain and could irrigate as well, the cotton looks really good. For those of us that have been around long enough to know what a good cotton crop usually looks like down here, it looks sad this year, a bad year really in terms of the number of bales that will be harvested," Cowan added.

But he has seen some remarkable cotton in some fields, and what cotton has been harvested so far has been high quality and the fields are providing promising yields.

"If we had gotten a few inches more water at the right time, we may have seen even better yields. A lot of dryland cotton producers just zeroed out early on, but there were a few dryland farms that got just enough rain to bring in a little cotton, but for them it was overall a pretty bad year," he said.

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Cowan says the high quality, high yielding cotton that has come in can be attributed to improved varieties and a boll weevil eradication program that is working and has minimized pest and disease pressure. He looks forward to the return of average rains and a resolution to the issue with water owed to South Texas by Mexico.

"If we could have gotten the water we were supposed to get according to the 1944 water treaty with Mexico, our cotton would have been a great deal better this year. And it's not just cotton, but all of agriculture in South Texas including cotton and corn, sorghum, sugarcane, and the citrus industry. Ranchers may not be culling their herds these hot summers if we had the water that is owed to us," Cowan said.