The weather, market prices and India’s ban on cotton exports are just some of the factors playing on the minds of South Texas cotton growers as they prepare to plant – or not, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.

“It’s been too wet to plant, but that’s a nice problem to have given the record drought we had last year,” said Brad Cowan, an AgriLife Extension agent in Hidalgo County.

“Then there’s the high winds and rain in the forecast that make for some antsy developments,” he said.

And he’s hearing that some growers are considering planting grain sorghum instead of cotton this year due to healthy market prices for grain.

Add to the mix an upward trend on prices that India’s ban on cotton exports might cause, and the result is a future that’s hard to call, he said.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see how this year turns out for Lower Rio Grande Valley growers,” he said. “Wet fields and high winds are not new challenges, but it’s been a while since we’ve been this far behind in planting cotton.”

South Texas growers normally plant between mid-February and late March, in order to meet the Sept. 1 state-mandated deadline to have all cotton harvested and stalks destroyed to discourage overwintering boll weevils, he said.

Dr. Luis Ribera, an agricultural economist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, is predicting a 200,000-acre cotton crop this year.

“Valley growers last year planted 191,000 acres of cotton, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” he said. “Of that, 141,000 acres were planted on dryland fields and 50,000 acres on irrigated land.”

Considering the record drought last year, growers here had a good year with high yields, he said.