There’s some good looking cotton in the South Plains-Panhandle area. But no one knows how it will finish.
That was the takeaway from the Plains Cotton Advisory Council consensus Friday in Lubbock. The informal council, made up of farmers, Extension personnel, consultants, seed reps, merchants and others with interests in the region’s cotton, remained positive in their outlook for a good regional crop.
Meeting at the Plains Cotton Growers Association, discussion centered on the weather’s impact on the crop. Even though dryland crops are the best since 2010, some fields remain terribly thirsty. Scattered showers Friday afternoon and more expected this weekend are hopefully providing the needed drink.
Irrigated fields are also benefiting from the rains. Three and 4-bale yields are again expected. And the council hopes the precipitation will enable farmers to halt irrigation and get the crop finished. Nonetheless, one person noted that up to Friday, “there are still a lot of blinking lights on pivots.”
As usual, many of the region’s dryland and even irrigated fields have been abandoned, ruined by hail, cool temperatures and drought. About 16% of the region’s 3.8 million acres have been abandoned this year. PCG said that number may increase after September estimates are in.
Also discussed was the lateness of the crop. A hot, dry August helped make up for some that, but it hurt productive plant growth. And although some cotton remains behind, PCG’s Shawn Wade, noted that regional heat units received are 1% above normal for cotton planted about May 1.
Wayne Keeling, Texas A&M AgriLife weed specialist, and Mark Kelley, AgriLife cotton specialist in Lubbock, have stressed all summer the need for growers to remove resistant pigweed from their fields. But the relentless weeds still rule many fields.
“A whole lot of resistant pigweed is going to seed, and it will take a total mind change in regional weed control,” said Keeling. He and others indicated that new lines of herbicide resistant chemistries can’t get here soon enough. Some at the council meeting noted that with the ever-growing weed problems, “technology varieties” remain key to West Texas cotton production.
Miserable cotton markets were a sour topic at the meeting. December 2014 futures closed at just over 64 cents on Friday. That puts regional cotton at 60 cents or below. And as one person noted at the meeting, “there are no economic fundamentals that say higher cotton prices.”
The last remaining payments from the old federal program may help a little. But as was mentioned at the council gathering, Farm Service Agency’s guaranteed loan program applications showed, “no one could cash-flow at 70 cents,” unless the value of cottonseed yielded at ginning was included in the mix.