Texas Cotton Seed Sprouting in Mature Bolls; Lint Quality Questions

It’s wet in central and southeast Texas, and that’s not something you expect to hear this time of year.  In fact, some areas have had 9 straight days of rain. In this week’s AgFax Southwest Cotton, we heard first hand reports about the saturated soil, sprouting seed in mature cotton bolls and possible quality loss. So far, flooding isn’t an issue, but the timing is scarey for many who thought their crop was well on the way to harvest.

Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife State Cotton Specialist, College Station: “Boll sprouting caused by continued rain is showing up from a line starting at Dallas-Fort Worth and going down through the Upper Gulf Coast. I don’t have a feel for what percentage of bolls are sprouting. We’re talking with ginners to hopefully determine growers’ insurance options. There can be loss in quality and discoloration, but the biggest thing may be the loss of seed. Guys normally swap their seed for ginning cost. Now, they may have to pay for it.

“In addition to having to pay the ginning cost, crop insurance is based off yield. Growers probably haven’t lost much yield, so no matter what the quality is, they will be forced to harvest for insurance purposes. Some ginners think quality could still be fairly decent. But if we continue to get rain, it could degrade pretty quickly.

“We’re also talking with the USDA Risk Management Agency representatives to see what they can do. There was a similar situation last year in North Carolina and South Carolina after fields were hit with a tropical storm. Farmers didn’t lose much yield, but they lost quality. We will learn more about this situation in the days and weeks ahead.”

Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas: “No one has ever seen it like this before. We’ve had rain 9 days in a row. Some cotton is sprouting in the bur. We’re seeing some hardlock, a disease that affects the normal expansion of fibers as the boll opens, as well as stained lint, black spots and yellow spots. We had some cotton that was ready to go at about 600 pounds per acre in yield. We decided to wait to defoliate it until showers were over. But they’ve just hung around for days.

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“We also have corn still in the field and a little milo. Everyone is calling their insurance adjustors to hopefully determine what to do. We’re not sure which direction to go with cotton and other crops.

“We have a lot of regrowth in cotton, a lot of lint is ruined and seed production will be down. It’s funny how 2 weeks ago we were praying for cool weather. Now we’re praying for hot sunshine. We’d like to see 102 again.”

Kate Harrell, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Jackson, Wharton & Matagorda Counties: “We’ve received quite a bit of rain and the cotton is looking pretty rough. We have a lot of sprouting in the bolls caused by the continuous rainfall. We’re hearing that sprouting has been seen all the way up to Hill County. A high percentage of sprouting on bolls can hurt lint quality and make it harder to gin. Farmers are unsure what type of crop insurance coverage may result from the sprouting.

“About half the crop had been harvested down toward Palacios before the rain began. Now, it’s too wet to get into the field to finish. We had started defoliating farther north, but farmers are split on whether to continue with defoliation after the heavy rains. They won’t be able to get into the fields for several days after the rain stops.

“The crop was looking pretty good. A lot of farmers had sprayed for bollworms and stink bugs. Now they can’t get into the field. There is a bit of frustration.”

Click here to read this week’s issue of AgFax Southwest Cotton. 


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