Southern Rolling Plains cotton farmers may be harvesting “an exceptional crop, well above average,” this fall, following a summer of moderate temperatures and above average rainfall.

“We did not have one day this summer that was over 100 degrees,” says Rick Minzenmayer, Extension integrated pest management specialist, who works out of Runnels County. “And we had well above average rainfall.”

“Rain was timely, too,” says Steve Sturtz, Tom Green County Extension agent.

Both were on hand recently for the Tom Green County cotton field tour, held on the John and Doug Wilde farm near San Angelo.

Minzenmayer says Southern Rolling Plains farmers likely will harvest around 200,000 acres this year, 40,000 irrigated. “A lot of irrigated cotton will make three bales per acre,” he says. “Dryland production will be from 600 pounds to 700 pounds per acre. That's very good cotton. Our 10-year dryland average is 388 pounds per acre.”

He says favorable weather played a significant role in production this year, but he also credits other advances. “Newer varieties, new technology, and the Boll Weevil Eradication Program set us up for a good cotton crop,” he says.

“We also had a light year for insect pests.”

Sturtz says boll weevil traps are catching more weevils this fall than has been the case for the past few years. “But numbers are not significant.”

“We had caught nothing by the end of August,” Minzenmayer says. “Then we caught 1,000 in early September.”

He says fall migration from South Texas pushed weevils into the Southern Rolling Plains. “Cotton was late in South Texas.”

He says weeds posed a bigger challenge than usual with the wet summer. “Volunteer cotton is becoming a big problem, especially in conservation-till cotton. A lot of growers rotate with wheat to help manage root rot. That's a big issue. They leave the wheat stubble in the summer and let the land lay fallow. But volunteer cotton comes up late in the wheat stubble.”

He says phenoxy herbicides are about the only option to take the cotton out but “we can't use that when other cotton is up and growing because of potential drift.”

He says the issue will be a high priority for next year. “It helps if we can get the volunteer cotton when it's small and we're going to look at some herbicide options. It will be a major emphasis.”