The good news for the Texas' Southern Plains cotton crop is two-fold: One, the irrigated crop is off to a good start with some early storm and hail damage that has been largely replanted. And two, if dryland farmers can coax up a stand they have time to pray for enough rain to make a crop.
“Our irrigated acreage looks good,” says Randy Boman, Extension cotton specialist at Lubbock, but to the south, in the dryland area, farmers are planting late and in the dust, hoping for a rain.
Some will have to wait several more weeks to see what insurance may offer for prevented plantings.
He says as much a half-a-million acres likely will be considered “non-emerged.”
Hail and storm damage may have affected from 50,000 to 100,000 acres. Most of that has been replanted, Boman says.
“Dryland cotton made a fair crop last year, without a lot of rain,” he says. “Farmers had good moisture early and then got August rains that made the crop. Some farmers made a bale per acre on dryland fields.”
Boman says even the irrigated acreage faces stiff challenges. “This will be an expensive crop to make. High energy costs bump up pumping water costs significantly,” he says. “We just hope farmers get some rain in July and August to help make this crop.”
The alternative, he says, is to pump down the Ogallala aquifer even more and add to production costs.
“By mid-June, we had already gotten into a July mind-set with this crop,” he said. Temperatures have hovered in the 90s and rainfall, which was ample from January through April, dried up in May.
He says the West Texas start stands in stark contrast with Central and South Texas, where water has been over-abundant early, creating stand problems in some cases.
Boman said planted acreage is still a question as farmers continue to dust-in a dryland crop.
As if weather and high energy costs weren't enough to bedevil Plains cotton growers, some have already faced significant insect infestations.
“Like we did in 2003, we had more problems with wireworms in many cotton fields planted in high residue crops, especially sorghum,” says Extension entomologist Jim Leser.
“No-till was the worst. Thrips have been real bad north of Lubbock, requiring foliar insecticides on top of at-planting treatments to handle the large numbers and prolonged movement into cotton. Right now we are fighting overwintering pink bollworms in the southwestern area of the High Plains.”
Leser says growers who did not plant Bollgard cotton in that area may face serious infestations. “Overwinter survival of these insects, as well as weevils and other pests, has resulted in elevated numbers to start the season,” he says.