Texas Extension cotton specialist Randy Boman remains optimistic about the South Plains cotton crop, citing the likelihood of a record crop, up to 4.3 million bales and possibly the best staple and strength ever for the area.

But on days like Nov. 3, with as much as 7 inches of snow on the ground and flakes still falling, he admits to more than a bit of concern.

“It's way to close to Thanksgiving to be stripping cotton,” Boman says.

And a lot remains to be harvested, up to 95 percent of the crop.

“Growers have not been able to run strippers consistently,” he says. He says the crop was slow maturing.

“August recorded 13 percent fewer heat units than normal,” he says. “September heat unit accumulation was 7 percent below normal and accumulation the first two weeks of October was 32 percent off. Farmers were running as hard as they could to get the crop ready to harvest. Then we had up to 20 inches of rain and now we have reports of 10 inches of snow in places.”

Boman says 95 percent of the cotton crop was still on the stalk on Nov. 3. “I'm seeing a lot of nervous people across the South Plains,” he says. “We're in a bind with cotton variety demonstration trials and research plots. We've been ready to go but weather has not allowed us to harvest.”

The cold snap brought mostly inclement weather but not a killing freeze for most of the region.

Boman says the 2004 ginning season will be extended significantly. “If we clear off we could still get the crop off by the end of December,” he says.

In early November, 250,000 bales had been classed from the region, about 5 percent of the anticipated crop. Leaf grades, Boman says, were trending higher than normal, around 4. Color was mostly in the 31 and 41 class with a few light spots. “We've seen some 32 and 42 grades,” he says.

“But we've had really good staple, 29 to 30, but we have a lot of low mic cotton. We needed more time to mature this crop but the low heat unit accumulation in August, September and October didn't allow it.

“We'll see little or no high mic cotton from this crop, but it could be the lowest mic in the last 10 years.”

Boman also says bark content has been high.