The Texas High Plains cotton crop continues to offer promising yields as farmers get close to cranking up strippers and a few pickers in the next week to 10 days.

Most farmers and industry observers encountered on a recent Southwest Farm Press trek into the High Plains indicated production could be off a bit from last year, but increased acreage and record low abandonment—less than 3 percent—will mean close to an 8.8-million-bale state production.

Hockley County farmer David Carter said during an Americot Cotton Seed Co. variety tour that he was “real happy with the crop, even some dryland cotton.

“I don’t think any of my irrigated fields will yield less than three bales an acre,” Carter said. “My best dryland will make about a bale-and-a-half. It’s ready to harvest, and the market is lot better than last year.”

Chris Edens, Hockley County AgriLife Extension agent, said abandonment for the county has been negligible. “We have 258,000 acres of cotton still standing. According to USDA records, we’ve never had this much cotton standing this late.”

He said dryland yields likely will push 500 pounds per acre and irrigated cotton—more than half the crop—will make more than two bales.

“Boll set was good,” Edens said. “As a whole, we have a tremendous crop, but some areas did not get timely rainfall.” Still, he said, “dryland cotton is as good as ever.”

“It’s not a great crop,” said Randy Smith, who farms near Ropesville. Smith’s farm, also part of the Americot tour, includes some subsurface, drip-irrigated cotton. “Most of the drip fields will make from 1,500 to 1,800 pounds per acre,” Smith said. “I don’t think I’ll see 2,000 pounds per acre this year.”

He said his goals have changed. “About 15 years ago, 1,000 pounds an acre on irrigated cotton was great. Now I’m offended if I don’t make 1,500 and I’m trying to make better than that.”

Doug Fairbanks, with Americot, said the area cotton “came on strong late in the season.”

Better than average

Michael Dolle, sales representative with Plainview Ag, said cotton in his area is a “better than average crop but will not be a record. Cool, cloudy weather early caused fruit shed,” he said. “We have a good limb crop and a good top crop but the bottom crop is not there.”

He said most of the acreage is close to harvest. “We’ve seen a lot of planes flying (flying on harvest aids)."

Russ Perkins, Bayer CropScience, said during the company’s cotton production field day at the Idalou breeding station, that most of the High Plains cotton crop is within four weeks of harvest. “Most is ready to go,” said Perkins who works in Bayer CropScience crop protection tech services.

He cautioned farmers to be patient with harvest aid application and wait until about 50 percent of the bolls are open. “From 50 percent to 80 percent is the ideal window,” he said. “After 80 percent, it’s a waste of money.”

He said weather in late September “has been good to get the crop ready for harvest.”