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Rainfall in recent weeks has turned cotton prospects from horrible to hopeful across most of the Southwest, but increased moisture also exposed growers to other challenges—storm damage, plant disease and weed pressure
Shane McLellan, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent for McLennan County inspects cotton on the Stiles Farm during last week’s annual field day. Cotton in the Blacklands has overcome a slow start and shows promise of making a decent crop, say Extension observers.
Recent rainfall, in addition to earlier significant rains, will help cotton farmers in most of South Texas make a decent crop, says Texas AgriLife state cotton specialist Gaylon Morgan. How good the crop will be, he added, “depends on what happens from here on.
“With the rain South Texas got this week, cotton is looking good,” he said. “They were beginning to need rain, even in the Valley and Coastal Bend. I visited fields in the Coastal Bend just two weeks ago and the crop looked good but the ground was beginning to crack. Rain this week is pushing the crop along.”
The Upper Gulf Coast also was beginning to dry out after heavy rains early in the season. Flea hoppers were beginning to show up in the area, and farmers were prevented from making timely insecticide applications because of those wet conditions. “But no one is complaining about the rain.”
Morgan says farmers will continue to apply plant growth regulators to keep vegetation under control and to improving fruiting potential, especially in fields with recent rainfall. Wet conditions earlier, he says, limited fruit retention.
“Overall, South Texas farmers are pretty well on their way to making a decent cotton crop. They are a week to ten days behind because of cool weather, but with recent warmer conditions the past three weeks they’re catching up on heat units.”
Most Blacklands farmers are “pleased with cotton condition,” Morgan says. “They started off rough with erratic cold weather. They were seeing plenty of gaps but are now making up for that slow start.
“Also, fields are fairly clear of pigweed. We were concerned that moisture could create a pigweed blowup, but growers appear to have gotten the message and applied pre-emergence herbicides. They seem to be doing a good job.”
He says the Southern Blacklands (at least the Thrall area) missed much of the rain over the past week. “Conditions are much drier there than I thought and I am not sure of conditions across the rest of the Southern Blacklands.”
Morgan says conditions across the state are significantly different from a year ago, “especially in the High Plains, the Rolling Plains, the Coastal Bend and the Valley.”
Even with a bit of hail damage, some additional disease pressure and more weeds to battle, cotton farmers are happy to have the moisture.
Along with rainfall cotton farmers always expect some hail damage and some acreage abandonment, but that loss is typically neither as widespread nor as costly as prolonged drought.
They’ll take the rain.