COLLEGE STATION – Cotton is a “mixed bag” in the Panhandle and South Plains, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
Most dryland cotton has failed, and in some areas, growers have given up on partially irrigated cotton as well. Also, there have been reports of odd plant development, most likely due to heat stress and lack of moisture.
“The cotton crop is suffering, for the most part, with lack of water when it was needed and is now showing up on boll set,” reported Rick Auckerman, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent for Deaf Smith County, west of Amarillo. “There are cotton fields that have open bolls and blooms on the same plants. The cotton plants that are short of water have shed what bolls that they cannot support and are trying to finish out what is left.”
“The small amount of cotton that was left in the county under irrigation has been cut off from water as producers are tired of paying input costs with cotton prices continuing to decline,” said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent for Motley County, southeast of Amarillo. “They are afraid that the profit margin may be too slim to make any money this year.”
“Cotton producers are dealing with a new late-season pest,” said Mark Brown, Lubbock County. “These are very small thrips that cause cupping followed by defoliation of leaves. It is more prevalent in moisture-stressed cotton.”
“We’re getting all sorts of things out there this year,” said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock. “We’re getting blooms and bolls opening on the same plant. The blooms Rick (Auckerman) was probably talking about are probably further out on the fruiting nodes.”
Despite some odd plant development, the terminal part of the plant on most cotton has shut down, Kelley noted, and harvest is going to be a little early this year.
“We’ve got some that could kick off harvesting anytime now. I’ve seen some fields that have been defoliated,” he said. “It’s just a matter of that stuff drying down. So I expect to see harvesting begin within the next week or so.”
“Also, seed counts are down, so bolls won’t be as “fluffy” as usual and quality may take a hit, he said.
Kelley said he’s heard total crop projections of 2.5 million bales for the Panhandle and South Plains.
“I think that’s kind of optimistic, myself,” he said.
Last year, the region harvested 5.3 million bales, but that was a perfect year for cotton, Kelley said. A more average year would be about 4.4 million bales.
“But I don’t know what an average year is anymore,” he said.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Dry weather persisted across the region. Due to high winds and no rainfall, wildfire conditions were severe. Beef producers continued to sell cattle due to lack of water and insufficient hay. Ponds were either very low or completely dry.
Coastal Bend: Some areas received intermittent showers, but nothing substantial enough to change crop, pasture, rangeland or drought conditions. Farmers were deep-plowing fields so when rain comes they can capture as much moisture as possible. The cotton harvest neared completion with below-average yields. Cotton-stalk destruction continued. Livestock producers continued to sell cattle as there is no grass growing on rangeland, and hay is in short supply and is expensive when it can be found. Wildfires remained commonplace even though burn bans remained in place.
East: The region remained hot and dry. A few counties received scattered light showers, but the drought continued to worsen. Livestock producers were buying hay from other states, but the costs of hay and transportation charges were becoming too high for many. Some also had to haul water in for livestock, and others continued to cull their herds or sell out completely. Wildfire burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed homes and outbuildings. Two lives, a mother and an infant child, were lost in one fire.
Far West: Drought conditions continued throughout the area. El Paso County peanut development was good, with nuts entering the gel stage. Cotton got a double whammy from the drought and environmental conditions; leaves were burned and bolls burst open by the heat, and there was disease pressure, most likely verticillium and fusarium with some root rot. Alfalfa growers were taking their fifth cutting. Most of the region was still under burn bans. Only irrigated crops were surviving.
North: Without rain, soil-moisture levels remained very short. With the hot, dry, windy weather, scattered fires broke out in many counties. Producers continued selling off livestock and were providing supplemental feed for the remaining cattle. There was no grass for grazing, and ponds were either very low or completely dry. Rangeland and pasture conditions were poor to very poor. Some producers were preparing fields in hope of being able to make fall plantings. The harvesting of all row crops was finished except for cotton, which was from 60 percent to 80 percent harvested.
Panhandle: The region continued to be rainless, but had cooler temperatures. The cooler weather helped ease some of the stress on cattle. Soil-moisture levels were from very short to short, with most counties reporting very short. Cotton was reported in mostly fair to poor condition. For the most part, cotton was suffering from a lack of water during the time when moisture was needed for boll set. Insect activity was very light. Rangeland and pastures were in mostly very poor condition. Livestock producers continued to reduce herds and to wean calves early. Supplemental feeding of livestock was also ongoing, with hay needs increasing and supplies very short. Most hay fed was trucked in from out of the region.
Rolling Plains: Cooler weather arrived. After nearly 100 days of 100-plus temperatures, a cold front brought 50s in the mornings and 80s in the afternoons. Some counties even reported a few showers, but most of the region remained dry, with the drought continuing and the wildfire danger high. Wildfires destroyed 6,500 acres, 40 structures and nine recreational vehicles this week in Palo Pinto County alone. Significant wildfire damage was also sustained in Wise County from recent fire, with 500 acres burned and several homes and outbuildings destroyed. A fire in Montague County burned 1,100 acres. Producers were still culling herds. Having enough water for livestock was an issue for many. Hay was being trucked in from all over the mid-western U.S. Remaining livestock were being given supplemental feed. The cotton crop was expected to be sparse. Even the fields under irrigation were not expected to produce much. Farmers needed moisture to prepare fields for wheat planting.
South: Rangeland, pastures and soil moisture remained in very poor condition throughout the region. Hay supplies were beginning to run short, and prices were increasing. With many pastures looking like bare ground, livestock producers had to provide even more supplemental feed for cattle. The high cattle numbers being sold at auction barns caused a decline on cattle prices. Temperatures ranged from the high 90s to 104 degrees. Coupled with high winds, the heat meant wild fires were breaking out throughout the region. The cotton harvest in Frio County was completed. Peanuts under irrigation in that area remained in good condition. In Zavala County, land preparation for planting wheat and oats were under way. In Cameron County, growers continued irrigating some citrus groves and sugarcane fields. In Hidalgo County, corn was being planted, and most cotton had been harvested.
South Plains: Cooler temperatures brought relief from the region’s hottest summer on record. Scattered light rain fell in some counties over the weekend, bringing highs down to the upper 60s to mid 70s and lows in the 50s. Drought and burn bans continued despite the cooler temperatures. Producers were preparing for an early harvest of what cotton remained. Several Bailey County producers were harvesting corn. Cattle were still being culled, shipped or moved to areas with more water since tanks were drying up and hay was costly and scarce.
Southwest: Daytime highs dropped from 110 to the upper 90s on Labor Day, but high, dry winds continued to aggravate the drought and create dust storms. The region remained in wildfire-alert status. The high winds also fanned more than 60 new field fires, burning more than 30,000 acres of rangeland in Bastrop, Bexar, Travis, Williamson and other counties. More than 500 homes had been destroyed in Bastrop County at the time of this report. Landowners were removing silt and making other improvements to dry stock tanks. Almost all forage had either been used by cattle or wildlife. Some ranchers have liquidated their herds. Others have reduced their herds so they could run minimum stocking rates and thereby maintain carefully developed herd genetics. But they were providing large amounts of supplemental feed for remaining livestock. The cotton harvest was winding down. About half of this year’s cotton harvest remained in field-stored modules. Most dryland and partially irrigated cotton had failed. The sweet corn harvest resumed. Peanuts, pecans and landscape nursery crops continued to make good progress wherever irrigation water was still available.
West Central: A cool front brought temperatures down from the triple digits. A few areas reported some scattered rain, but overall, the weather continued to be dry, and crop conditions poor. Soil-moisture levels remained extremely low. Field crops were almost non-existent unless they were irrigated. Cotton was all very poor. Wildfires continued to be a big issue in all areas. Livestock producers were still searching for additional hay sources, and herd liquidations increased. All water sources further declined.