Texas Crop Weather: Early South Plains Cotton Yield Reports Very Promising
Despite so many cards being dealt against it through the growing season, South Plains cotton looks very promising, said Mark Kelley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist, Lubbock.
The region had a cooler-than-normal spring and late freezes, and remained locked in drought by mid summer, Kelley said. There were also the usual High Plains pitfalls of hail, high winds and blowing sand that knocked out some fields. And many dryland re-plantings of hailed-out or blown-out fields were late, bumping right up against the crop insurance planting deadlines.
And the latest discouraging development was that winter came early this year to the area, with freezing or near-freezing weather shutting down late-set boll development on late-planted cotton that could have really used another couple of weeks to finish out, he said.
“They had their first freeze earlier this month farther north, but around Lubbock we just recently had 32 degrees for a little bit the other night,” he said. “This means any boll maturation is done, so we’re just waiting for harvest aides to go out and dry those plants down to get them ready for stripper harvest.”
Kelley said the average first freeze for the area is around Oct. 31.
“We had some cotton that was pretty late planted and pushed hard by irrigation and sure could have used the rest of October to finish up, and some warmer temperatures too, but we don’t always get what we want.”
Yet early yield reports have been very good.
“I have heard of some very good yields coming out of the better-irrigated cotton,” Kelley said. “Some producers south of Lubbock actually made the one-ton club, or harvested four bales of cotton per acre. I heard another producer making two and one-half bales per acre, and that wasn’t on his better stuff. His better stuff is yet to be harvested.
“We were fortunate enough that after we got through all the bad weather, and the issues getting started, we had some pretty decent cotton-growing weather and were able to stick a lot of the early season fruit and take it to the gin.”
Dryland cotton could have used another rain toward the end of the season, around the first part of August, he said. But in areas where the farmers got some decent rains, Kelley said he had heard reports of 500 to 550 pounds per acre.
“That’s on some really good dryland,” he said. “On the rest of it, I’m hearing 250 pounds–a half bale per acre.”
Early reports on quality have been good too, Kelley said. But when some of the latest planted cotton is harvested, they may have low micronaire values, a measure of fiber characteristics that’s important for cotton classers and spinners, he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Cooler temperatures and recent rains benefited crops. Armyworms were reported in some early winter grains and greened up pastures. Rains replenished stock tanks. Hay producers hoped to squeeze out another cutting this year.
Coastal Bend: Pastures continued to improve with recent rains. Ponds were full in many areas, but some remained low. The harvest of early maturing pecan varieties continued with reports of low insect and disease damage. However, some pecan growers reported little or no crop due to the impact of squirrels and crows on what was already a low-nut load. Armyworm activity in some winter pastures was reported and producers continued to spray for armyworms to reduce forage losses. Some producers planted winter pastures before rain. Some producers expected to be able to take another hay cutting after fields dry out.
East: Parts of the region received as much as 3 inches of rain, however some producers worried that pastures won’t benefit from the rain due to the cooler temperatures. Other producers hoped to take one more cutting of hay. In some counties, many stock ponds were full. Winter pasture planting continued. Livestock were in good shape. Some livestock producers were already feeding hay. Cattle have started fall calving. More counties were reporting increased feral hog damage.
Far West: Scattered showers brought from 0.3 inch to 3.5 inches of rain. Daytime highs were in the 70s. Some cotton producers expected to start harvesting very soon. Grain sorghum was maturing and coloring. Rangeland and pastures looked good, with grasses and vegetation rebounding. Livestock producers were working cattle and shipping calves to feedlots or wheat pasture.
North: The region received from 2 to 4 inches of rain, and soil-moisture levels were adequate in most counties. Pastures were significantly improved, but there was not much runoff to replenish the stock-water ponds. Most winter wheat was planted after short delays because of rain. Nighttime temperatures fell to the low 40s, which slowed the growth of warm-season grasses. Livestock remained in good condition. There were reports of large populations of grasshopper and flies. High feral hog activity was noted in Titus County.
Panhandle: Temperatures were near average most of the week. Soil-moisture levels continued to be mostly short. Most counties reported a hard freeze. Dallam County reported the second killing freeze of the year on Oct. 17; the first one occurred on Oct. 4. One area reported the first snowfall of the year on Oct. 16. Cotton was mostly in fair condition, with producers applying harvest aides to many fields. Growers continued to plant winter wheat, and many were irrigating the early plantings in hope of being able to graze stocker cattle on them soon. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to good condition, with most counties reporting fair to poor. Fall calving and spring weaning wound down. Some producers were gearing up for stocking wheat pasture as last month’s rains made that an option. However, availability and cost of calves will be the limiting factor.
Rolling Plains: Cooler weather dominated the region, with high temperatures in the 70s. The cooler weather halted cotton development. Although cotton was from two to three weeks behind in maturity, the crop actually looked promising in some areas. Some cotton farmers were just happy to actually have something to harvest. In some places, irrigated cotton yields appeared to yield from two to 3.5 bales per acre, while other areas promised fair to normal yields for dryland cotton. With the recent moisture, pastures looked good as winter rye emerged. Livestock were in fair to good condition, with some ranchers continuing to provide supplemental feed. Fall cattle work and weaning wound down. The hay supply tightened up heading into winter. Wheat planting continued, but dry soils meant rain will be needed to establish adequate stands. Grub worms, armyworms and grasshoppers were reported in some recently planted wheat fields, so establishing an early stand may be a challenge. Water-well levels remained low, and towns continued to restrict water usage.
South: Rain continued to fall throughout the region, with the northern and western counties receiving the most. In some counties, the rains caused flooding, road closures and halted field activities, but definitely benefited crops, rangeland, pastures and livestock. Amounts ranged from a few inches to 11 to 13 inches in parts of La Salle County and 15 inches in Dimmit County. Most northern counties reported 100 percent adequate soil moisture, with the exception of La Salle County where soil moisture levels were 100 percent surplus. Most western counties reported 40 to 100 percent adequate soil moisture. In the southern part of the region, soil moisture was 100 percent short in Hidalgo County and 70 percent adequate in Starr County. Rangeland and pastures improved throughout nearly all the region. Cattle body condition scores remained good to fair. Producers were able to halt supplemental feeding of livestock. Thoug h wet soils halted field activity in the northern part of the region, in the western counties, producers were planting oats, harvesting coastal Bermuda grass hay, preparing to shred cotton stalks and planting vegetables. In Zavala County, cabbage was progressing well, fall cantaloupes responded well to the recent rains, and cotton modules and bales remained in some fields. Pecan harvesting was at a standstill in that county because of extremely wet conditions. In Hidalgo County, vegetable planting was very active, early orange and naval citrus harvesting began, and sugarcane harvesting was delayed. In Starr County, late-season cantaloupe harvesting and hay baling continued.
South Plains: The predicted cooler-than-normal winter may have already arrived. Many counties had the first freeze of the year on Oct. 19. Floyd, Crosby, Gaines, Garza, Mitchell and Scurry counties all reported rain–from a trace to as much as 3 inches in Garza County. The cotton harvest was interrupted by the rain, but it was expected be in full swing again by the last week of October. The rain will go a long way to bringing up and sustaining the winter wheat. Harvesting of sorghum, corn, peanuts and sunflowers was also expected to resume soon. Cool-season grasses in rangeland and pastures benefited from the moisture. Rangeland was in fair to good condition. Livestock were mostly in good condition, with no supplemental feeding required on native range.
Southeast: Producers were cutting hay and planting winter annuals. Soil moisture remained marginal in some areas; good in others. Rangeland and pasture were in fair-to-excellent condition across the region. Moderate temperatures continued, and forage growth slowed down.
Southwest: Most counties received 0.5 inch to 4 inches of rain, which helped alleviate drought conditions. Days and nights became cooler. The moisture helped wheat, oats and rangeland. Fall corn neared maturity and looked great.
West Central: Days and nights became cooler. Many areas received rain early in the week, improving soil-moisture levels. Producers were expected to resume planting small grains as soon as fields dried out. The rains helped early planted winter wheat get off to a good start. Cotton neared maturity, but fields remained one to two weeks behind schedule. Some early planted wheat may be ready for grazing soon. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition due to adequate moisture, but cool temperatures slowed warm-season forage growth. Winter grasses and cool-season forages should do very well due to good soil moisture. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Stock tanks remained very low and needed more runoff.