Weather, to no one’s surprise, topped the list of 2011 concerns for cotton consultants and their clients from Texas to North Carolina.

And, based on regional reports during the annual Cotton Consultants Conference, weather issues included the gamut from record-setting drought, unrelenting heat, devastating floods, humidity and hail stones as big as lemons.

The consultants’ conference is a kick-off for the annual National Cotton Council’s Beltwide Cotton Conferences, held this year in Orlando.

“Hot and dry,” sums up the top concern for Central Texas cotton farmers in 2011, said Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting Services of Hewitt, Texas. “We set records for hot weather and drought,” Nemec said. “We had 90 days or more of temperatures above 100 degrees. And we had 40 days when nighttime low temperature were 80 degrees or hotter.”

He said Central Texas cotton farmers “had no substantial moisture” available to plant cotton. Farmers made attempts to water the crop up and even that resulted in less than desirable results.

“Some applied a half-inch of water and the next day it looked like a dustbowl.” Emergence was spotty. He said some plants emerged as much as 30 days later than first emergence. Some of those fields were replanted.

Uniformity issues

“Non-uniform emergence affected plant growth regulator applications as well as harvest aide sprays,” Nemec said. Some farmers decided to wait to defoliate even after 80 percent of bolls were open, hoping to make that other 20 percent. “They lost a lot on the ground,” he said.

Wind also played havoc with the 2011 Central Texas crop. Daily winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour dried out the soil and prevented timely herbicide applications. The dry soil limited tap-root growth and affected fruit set, Nemec said.

“The heat caused pollination problems.” Top bolls were small and misshapen. He said some top bolls cracked before earlier, bottom bolls, because of the heat, which reached 118 to 120 degrees in those top bolls.

Cattlemen benefitted somewhat from abandoned cotton. “Some growers shredded and baled zeroed-out cotton,” Nemec said. Livestock producers were glad to get it since hay was in short supply over most of the Southwest.

“We had very little insect pressure,” Nemec said. “Fleahopper pressure was light. We saw some stink bugs on irrigated cotton.”

He said Texas cotton farmers have “joined the party. We now have glyphosate-resistant waterhemp.” The problem may have been worse last year because dry soils prevented soil-applied herbicide from working as efficiently as usual. “And we don’t have enough hoe hands,” to take care of weed pressure.

Harvest fires also caused trouble. The low humidity and high temperatures made stripper fires more likely, Nemec said. “One of my farmers said his stripper caught fire four times during the harvest season.”

A positive report in the gloom and doom of weather issues, he said, comes from the Boll Weevil Eradication Program. “It’s working. We caught only 28 weevils in our zone last year and most of those came from a few fields in the river bottoms.”

He said some farmers made decent cotton—from 2 to 2.5 bales per acre where water was plentiful. “But applying irrigation one day late made a difference.”

Nemec said the area has received rain in the past few weeks, as much as 8 inches in some areas. “But rivers, stock tanks and ponds are still low. We haven’t seen any runoff.”