Welcome to the eighth year of AgFax Southwest Cotton, our weekly crop report covering Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona. We’re starting a little early this year so we can get the latest information out to you during this period of isolation. Also, we’re excited to have you onboard for AgFax Media’s 30th year of publishing crop e-newsletters!
Southern Texas has some good cotton stands, although dry, windy conditions in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and South Texas caused concern over Easter weekend.
Cool, wet conditions have central Texas fields at a standstill, as planters rev up for action the next week or two. Planters are also ready to roll in the next few weeks near El Paso and southeastern New Mexico. A mess of mustard weed could yield a rash of false cinch bugs in the region, notes consultant Gary Beverage.
Post-Easter hard freezes and snow chilled parts of the Panhandle and Oklahoma. Those areas, the South Plains and Kansas regions are looking at early May before starting planting.
Mike McHugh, Southwest Texas Ag Consultants, Uvalde, Texas:
“I’m looking at some blown-out cotton this afternoon (4/13). It was just coming up before we had high winds over the weekend. It was primarily planted early on bare sandier ground in Frio County.
“We still have good looking cotton, especially in strip-till fields. That cotton is at first true leaf, so it’s still very young. Overall, we’re a little behind in planting. About 25% of our cotton is in the ground. A few guys went in early before watching weather forecasts for wet, cool conditions. Many farmers backed off and waited. However, I expect planting will be in full gear this week.
“This part of South Texas may be about 10% down in cotton acres after the drop in prices. Some growers switched to more vegetables and sweet corn. The sweet corn is looking good. It’s just started tasseling and we’re spraying for corn earworms with those first silks. Harvest will start by May 1.
“COVID-19 has certainly caused problems with regional vegetable production. About 50% of U.S. fresh produce production goes to restaurants and food service. With restaurants closed, except for take-out, sales are way down. We’re feeling their pain. I’ve had growers walk away from broccoli and cabbage fields. They’ll probably have to plow up onions.”
Josh McGinty, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist, Corpus Christi:
“We’ve been fortunate enough not to face any early replanting for wind damage around Corpus Christi. That’s unusual for this time of the year, however the area is dry. There have been spotty showers, but parts of San Patricio and Nueces counties really need rain. This week is the insurance deadline for planting in those areas, but a few acres still had not been planted.
“Cotton that’s up is everywhere from dry seed to just sprouting and to the 3- to 4-leaf stage. Parts of San Patricio caught rain, so it’s not all gloom and doom. It all needs a good rain. Corn is also drought stressed. Some of it is rolling up by late morning due to dryness, and it’s not even that hot. Sorghum is getting to the point that it will see stress.
“Growers are planting many cotton varieties with the new herbicide technologies. There are probably more acres of Enlist than Dicamba compared to other areas. Along the Coastal Bend we are still seeing good weed control with Liberty. Our humidity is good for that technology. I walked many of our research station plots today (4/13) and fields were showing good progress. I didn’t see any issues with thrips on the early cotton.
“With the COVID-19 situation, we’re not out as much as usual. We’re doing much online programming. Since Hurricane Harvey, AgriLife remains as a disaster management team. Our Corpus area team is helping transport health care materials such as respirators and other supplies from the National Guard center.”
Gary Beverage, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Artesia, New Mexico/Southwest Texas:
“We’re on the front edge of planting and waiting on temperatures to warm up. It was 36 degrees this morning (4/14) in Artesia. There should be early planting around Pecos and Dell City this week. We’re still another 2 weeks away from getting started in Artesia.
“Unfortunately, we have an abundance of London rocket, a winter annual mustard weed that is a mess on corners of pivots and ditch banks. Our high winter moisture really brought it on. It shouldn’t be too bad for cotton, especially if you’re planting a Dicamba trait or 2, 4-d trait variety. It should be easy to clean up. However, the mustard weed is a good host for false chinch bugs, so that insect will be an issue. We’ll have to watch it closely.
“Overall cotton acres may be down slightly due to low prices. Corn acres won’t vary much from normal. All of our corn is cut for silage.”
Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas:
“The Blacklands are sitting idle right now (4/14). We had a soaking rain of 2 to 2.5 inches Sunday, which slowed things down. No cotton has been planted. The low is forecast at 35 degrees tonight. We expect it to warm up later in the week with sunny days. We should start planting the first of next week.
“Our cotton acres could be down from 10 to 30%, depending on the grower. The input costs are too high and the price for return is too low. Still, there may be more cotton acres planted than guys wanted because they couldn’t get their corn planted due to wet cool weather.
“With the sunny weather, most corn is starting to take off. It turned yellow during all the cloud cover in recent weeks. It looks better now. Blacklands wheat looks good. It’s maturing well and we could see good yields.
“A few weeds are popping through the burndown on cotton acres, but we’ll take care of them with herbicide applications at planting.”
Danielle Sekula Ortiz, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Lower Rio Grande Valley:
“We have a cold front for our area (4/14). We’re at 68 degrees after hitting 90 over the weekend. Much cotton has started squaring, while other cotton is at about 2 true leaves. It needs rain because we’ve been dry. Other than a few small showers, the Valley hasn’t had a decent rain in a while. There was blowing sand over Easter that had guys worried.
“Insect pressure is starting to pick up. There’s an increase in aphids and adult fleahoppers. There are also predators, which should help control those insects. Fields are pretty clean from weeds. The dry weather held them back.
“Sorghum growth is everywhere from V-6 or 7 to booted out. Sugarcane aphid pressure has been light. Guys have planted SCA resistant varieties to hold down the pressure. Corn is tasseling and there are white silks. Sesame is coming up, and we’re watching for cutworms in the middle-valley area. Canola harvest has just started.”
“Growers have been getting their fields ready, but we’re still a couple of weeks away from planting on the South Plains. It has been cold the start of this week and there was even a little snow northward into the Panhandle. I haven’t heard of many guys backing out of planting cotton since they don’t have options for other crops, especially on dryland acres.
“Growers are expected to plant varieties similar to what they grew last year. Most seed is basically Xtend or Enlist technology. AgriLife and seed industry reps have had success with Auxin herbicide training over the winter. Due to the coronavirus situation, training is now conducted online.
“Other than low prices, growers should be in good shape headed into planting. Many received good winter moisture, and it’s not as wet this April as it was this time last year.”
AgFax Southwest Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
Owen Taylor, Editorial Director. It covers cotton production in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
This weekly report is distributed during the main cotton growing season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address: 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047. Office: 601-992-9488.