The Texas High Plains hosted an unwelcome visitor this week as a late September cold front settled over the area and dropped nighttime temperatures well below seasonal norms. The good news following this episode, though, is that nighttime lows appear to have stayed above freezing throughout the region and didn't put an immediate end to anyone's 2009 growing season.
Measuring the overall impact of the cold snap on the 2009 crop remains an open question that only time can answer. Grower reactions to the week's events were generally mixed. Most seem to agree that even though the situation is less than ideal, it could have been a lot worse had the front been a little stronger or stayed just a little longer.
Nighttime temperatures ranging from the middle to upper thirties in northern areas to the lower to middle forties in southern counties on Monday and Tuesday of this week were well short of a killing freeze-type event, but were low enough to temporarily halt most plant functions.
How the crop recovers from this situation will generally depend on where the plants were in terms of overall maturity and how quickly temperatures rebound. In most fields a rapid return to temperatures at or above seasonal norms will not make a lot of difference to the final outcome. In others, however, there may be additional gains to be made.
It's no secret that a fair number of High Plains non-irrigated cotton acres are still trying to catch up from a late start in 2009. In these fields growers have been taking advantage of every good day they could get in late September to mature late bolls and won't be disappointed if temperatures rebound quickly and stay above normal for a few more weeks.
Either way, enough of the crop has now reached the point that they are ready to receive harvest aid applications. In fact, before the front's arrival many growers had already been contemplating initial harvest aid applications during the first week or so of October. This week's weather will solidify those plans and reinforce expectations for a mid-October uptick in area harvest operations.