Cotton harvest in the Texas Rolling Plans around Stamford is slowly, and in some cases, painfully, getting under way.

Rex Ford, manager of the Farmers Cooperative cotton gin at Stamford since 1992, said the 2008 cotton crop in the Stamford area will yield about half what the 2007 record crop made. He ginned 55,783 bales in 2007.

"We are predicting we will gin around 25,000 bales this year," he said. “While it is a smaller crop than last year, we are seeing some really good quality cotton ginned this year.

"We have ginned some 21 3/4 staple length cotton," he said. "Farmers are getting 53 to 54 cents loan rate for this cotton. Although it is early in the ginning season, some farmers are getting one-and-a-half bales to the acre in their dryland cotton. And I don't believe it will be difficult to see some two-bale per acre cotton this year."

The 2008 season in Texas saw bad weather ranging from hurricanes in South Texas to exceptional storms in the plains counties that brought crop-damaging rain and winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Later in the summer, an extended dry period stunted several thousands of acres.

The Farmers Cooperative is busy with updates for their gin, Ford said. "We installed a new press in the gin this year and we are in the process of upgrading machinery so we can gin up to 50 bales per hour."

Ford's cooperative is a member of the Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association. One of the members of the association executive board is Stamford farmer, Ferdie Walker.

Walker, along with his wife Suzanne, and two sons, John and Charles, are typical dryland farmers in the southern Texas Rolling Plains.

"We grow winter wheat and cotton in rotation," Walker said."A one to two or a one to three year rotation is pretty typical for this area. Modern cotton varieties with Roundup Ready Flex and Bollgard varieties have been good to us. Last year, we had some three-bale cotton."

This year will be different, Walker said. The weather problems explained by Ford also affected Walker’s crop. Although he has neighbors starting their cotton harvest, Walker is still waiting to get into the field. A three-and-a-half inch rain in September caused a regrowth period, adding stems and leaves but no bolls at that late stage of development.

"I have sprayed all my cotton once and some of it twice, to get ready to harvest," Walker said. "I hope I won't have to, but it is looking like I may have to spray some of it a third time to get rid of the extra second growth."

TALKIN' COTTON is produced by NTOK Cotton, a cotton industry partnership, which supports and encourages cotton production in the Rolling Plains of North Texas. For more information on the cotton scene, see okiecotton.org and ntokcotton.org. For questions or comments on Talkin' Cotton, contact eventerprise1@hughes.net.