Southwest Cotton: Drought and Hail Damage – Not a Good Start

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor


    Welcome to the ninth year of AgFax Southwest Cotton – weekly crop reports covering Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona – the nation’s largest cotton-producing area. We’re excited to have you onboard for AgFax’s 31st year of publishing crop newsletters. A big thanks to our exclusive sponsor, PhytoGen, and the region’s many crop advisors for their input in making this newsletter a success.


    On a sidenote, AgFax founders and owners, Owen Taylor and his wife, Debra Ferguson, died in an automobile accident in December. Their dedication to the integrity of these crop reports and the other AgFax newsletters was recognized across the ag media industry. Farm Journal is honored to continue the AgFax tradition.




    After months of dry weather, the Texas Panhandle and South Plains finally received the drink of water cotton and other crops needed. Spotty hail accompanied the showers and may have damaged just-emerged plants. Rainfall in areas further south also has growers checking their rain gauges.


    Rain is still needed in Arizona, Oklahoma and New Mexico, where irrigation water is scarce. Kansas is several weeks late in planting after cool yet dry weather.


    Replanting was necessary in South Texas after receiving hail in Uvalde and Medina counties. Consultant Mike McHugh details the damage in his report.


    Weeds gone wild have Coastal Bend growers eager to get sprayers into still-muddy fields. Hoe-hands may be in demand.




    Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist, Amarillo:

    “Although the rain is causing delays in planting, it is welcome due to our persistent winter and spring drought. Rainfall appears uniform when viewing the radar, but regional rainfall data shows actual rainfall totals ranging from a few hundredths of an inch to over 2 inches. Unfortunately, the southwest Panhandle has still not received appreciable rainfall. In areas where we have received little to no rainfall, many producers say they’re not sure they will even plant.


    “Where rainfall has been received, producers are anxious to start planting dryland crops, both cotton and sorghum. Rain has brought hail over parts of the Panhandle the last few days. Producers are inspecting early planted cotton. Early May cotton is in the seedling stage. If the cotyledon leaves and terminal are damaged, producers can expect yield reductions. So far I have not received reports of severe injury to wheat.”


    Mike McHugh, Southwest Texas Ag Consultants, Uvalde:

    “We’ve had a rough go this spring in parts of south Texas. Much of the cotton planted in early April got hailed out. Most of the cotton fields in Medina and Uvalde counties were impacted. Most of those growers have replanted and most of the cotton is just now breaking the ground. Planting should have been completed by May 1, so this makes us very late. Some guys who were hailed out may come back with milo because prices look good. It just depends on how their insurance adjustments come out.


    “With the poor crop conditions and continued cool weather, we’re seeing light pressure from thrips. To control them I’m applying acephate at the same time I’m running Roundup and Liberty herbicide applications.


    “As for other crops, a lot of corn was also hailed out. There’s damage in about every field. The sweet corn area missed much of the hail and that crop looks good. However, wet weather and the potential for more severe storms are in the forecast. We just hope it doesn’t produce what we’ve already suffered through. Some hail was large enough it even went through roofs. It was like a war zone.”


    Tom Studnicka, Studnicka Consulting, Belle Plaine, Kansas:

    “We’re getting a late start on everything. Growers just planted cotton at the end of last week. We were already dry and missed most of the rain. There was finally enough of a shower to get started. As far as acres go, the guys I’m checking crops for are planting a little less cotton this year. I understand growers in southwest Kansas will likely plant a normal number of cotton acres.


    “Here, they’re going with more milo because of the better price. At the time planting decisions were being made, milo penciled out even better than corn and cotton. Corn was three weeks to a month late in getting planted. Most corn is only at 3-leaf when it should be 5 to 6-leaf. We need the heat and more rain.”


    Murilo Maeda, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, Lubbock:

    “Planting has slowly started in West Texas. But with soil temperatures in the mid-to-upper-60s and much-welcomed rainfall, planting should be running full tilt in the next few weeks.


    “Growers faced several limiting factors leading up to warmer weather and the recent rains. There was a lack of moisture and several cold fronts that pushed through the region. Temperatures dipped into the high 30s and low 40s in more northern areas.


    “Thankfully, over the past five days, most areas from I-20 up to the northern Panhandle have received rainfall. Amounts range from as low as a few tenths of an inch to as much as 2.8 inches in Amarillo. Lubbock has received slightly more than 1 inch. Areas that were extremely dry west and southwest of Lubbock have also benefited from rainfall. Seagraves recorded 1.8 inches, Morton 2.1 inches and Muleshoe 1 inch, according to data from West Texas Mesonet.


    “Our entire area needed rainfall. We’re hopeful the recent precipitation will replenish the soil profile and help growers see good planting conditions.”


    Josh McGinty, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist, Corpus Christi:

    “Part of the crop is at first flower while other area fields are at pinhead square along the Coastal Bend. That’s after a slow start. After a dry winter and early spring, we finally received the needed moisture about the first of May. In Corpus Christi, we measured 4 to 5 inches of rain the past two weeks. We were on the lighter side of reported precipitation. And there’s another good rain event forecast for tonight (5/19) and into Wednesday. If the rains stopped now, we would have enough to at least make a crop.


    “After rain, the big issue is weeds. The pre-emerge herbicide efficacy is long gone. May fields are inaccessible due to mud and weeds are coming on quickly. Growers could see strong pigweed pressure. Unlike the South Plains and Panhandle areas, our glyphosate resistance isn’t as strong, and we can obtain early pigweed and waterhemp control with Roundup. Many fields are now beyond that. If weeds aren’t too tall, we can make sequential applications of Liberty and obtain good control. But a few fields have weeds that are getting too big, with some more than 1 foot tall. If it’s that bad you’re backed into a corner. Hoe crews may be needed. There’s not an easy answer.


    “Growers need to also watch for insect and disease pressure. There are likely fleahoppers in fields, and we could see foliar disease pressure after the wet weather.”


    Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas:

    “It has been a cold, wet start over most of the Blacklands. One day recently the high was only 64 degrees, which was a record for the lowest high temperature for that day. A few spots needed replanting and we’re still getting rain. Our biggest problem is getting herbicides applied. Anytime it’s dry enough we’re running sprayers. We need to get the first postemerge herbicide applications made.


    “Most cotton is at 3- to 4-leaf with some at 5-leaf. We’re worried that with wheat drying down, thrips are moving into cotton. Before the last rains, we treated a few fields with acephate to hopefully manage thrips. The wet, cool weather has also brought on seedling diseases, namely Rhizoctonia and pythium. We’re watching those to determine if fungicide treatments are needed.


    “Corn is our bright spot. There’s more corn this year due to strong grain prices – and it looks beautiful. You’d think it was in the Midwest. It will soon start tasseling. More milo was also planted, especially in the Brazos Bottom. Wheat should be a little above average in yield. Wheat harvest should start a week after it dries up, hopefully about June 1.” 


    Randy Norton, University of Arizona Extension Cotton Specialist, Safford:

     “We’re well into planting, with about 90% of the crop in the ground. In talking with growers and others, I think we’ll be above the USDA projections of 115,000 to 120,000 acres. The majority is starting to square and fields are even at match-head square in the western part of the state. We’ve seen no blooms so far.


    “Despite a few bumpy days of cold weather in mid-March and mid-April, we’ve had a good spring all things considered. We’ve had decent rainfall after a few fields had to be replanted due to the cold snaps.


    “The year started dry. That’s apparent from very little desert vegetation. Unless we get our normal monsoon activity this summer, the crop could see more pressure. Growers are worried about irrigation water availability late this year and into 2022. We could see a cutback in the canal water supply from the Colorado River in the fall and into next winter. That’s due to low mountain snowfall amounts in Colorado this winter.


    “We continue to see more pigweed glyphosate resistance across the state. For that reason, more guys planted cotton with new technology that’s tolerant to auxin herbicides that normally control pigweed. That’s good to see because we need to try and prevent the resistance problem from expanding.


    “We’re seeing more scouting for early insect pressure. I talked to a grower this morning (5/18). He was seeing early season thrips damage, but there is no significant insect pressure this early.” 


    Joe Renfro, Nutrien Ag Solutions, southwest Oklahoma:

    “Most cotton has been planted, but we can’t catch a break in getting any rain. While other areas east and west of here have been lucky, the rainfall has missed most of southwestern Oklahoma. The Altus area got about 1 inch, but most other areas remain high and dry. The Altus rain didn’t do much for Lake Altus, which provides irrigation for that region. But that lake can fill up in one day from good rains north toward Sayre and I-40.


    “There’s not a good story for our wheat either. That cold weather in April caused a lot of freeze damage. We’ll probably see an average crop. We need luck to change for farmers around here.”


    Ben McKnight, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, College Station:

    “After a rollercoaster ride, things are starting to turn up. In the Upper Gulf Coast, plantings in April were hit with two or three days of low temperatures in the 40s. That led to emergence issues. Early rainfall in the Brazos River Bottom region created soil crusting issues, which also compounded emergence. But things have warmed up. Later-planted fields are in the cotyledon stage and earlier cotton is in the 3- to 4-leaf stage.


    “Weeds have become an issue after the on and off rainfall at an inconvenient time. There are a few weed flushes, but most pre-emerge herbicide appears to be holding up. Those residual herbicides are great tools to stay ahead of weeds. Early postemerge programs have commenced or will shortly.


    “Last week we started seeing early thrift pressure. Growers had to be proactive in treating them. To my surprise, there aren’t any disease issues in the College Station area. You would think the cool, wet weather would result in diseases.”


    Orlando Flores, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, El Paso County:

    “Dry weather has impacted our potential cotton production this year. Our growers rely heavily on the Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico for irrigation water. So far, the irrigation district has not released any water due to severe dry conditions. We could see as little as one-third of the cotton acres as we normally see.


    “The cotton that is up has just emerged. There is still good well water in the upper valley. But in the lower valley, there’s too much salt in the groundwater. Growers in that region have applied treated effluent water from the city of El Paso for pre-irrigation to get the crop up. Growers who depend on that water are seeing major reductions in cotton plantings. We could use good rainfall across the region to help get the crop started.”


    Danielle Sekula, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Lower Rio Grande Valley:

    “After a dry start to this year, our cotton growth varies. However, the lower valley has received excellent rainfall, including at least 2 inches in most areas and 3 to 4 inches in others. That should help the crop. I hope to obtain a good boll count in a few weeks to get a better handle on what the crop will yield.


    “Insect-wise, cotton fields are clean. But sorghum has been invaded by fall armyworms, headworms and rice stink bugs. The armyworms hatched after the rains and are eating on more mature sorghum. We’re concerned about sorghum in the V3 to V5 range and will determine if it needs to be treated for armyworms. We’re three to four weeks from sorghum harvest and fortunately, there’s still no heavy sugarcane aphid pressure.”


    Gary Beverage, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Artesia, New Mexico/southwest Texas:

    “Rain finally arrived in southeast New Mexico after a long dry spell. Much is in the 0.8 of an inch to 1 inch. Other areas are getting spotty showers, but it’s better than nothing. It will help cotton that’s in the ground.


    “Anywhere from 50% to 75% of cotton acres have been planted but not much is up. It got a late start after cool early May morning temperatures dropped to the 40s and low 50s and didn’t warm up until noon. We’re seeing a warming trend this week, which should help. Wheat hay and silage are also three weeks behind and should also benefit from warmer weather. A few wheat acres have been cut, but here in the Pecos Valley, we’re still two to three weeks away from cutting. The area’s traditional chili pepper crop is also behind.”


    Prospective Planting Review

    USDA’s Prospective Planting report projects U.S. growers will plant 12 million cotton acres for 2021, down less than 1% from 2020. In the Southwest, Texas acres are forecast at 6.8 million, equal to 2020; Oklahoma, 510,000 acres, 97% of 2020; Kansas, 190,000 acres, 97% of 2020; Arizona, 115,000 acres, 92% of 2020 and New Mexico, 34,000 acres, 79% of 2020.




    Thompson on Cotton: Profit Taking Selloff Unexpected, Likely Temporary   5-17

    Shurley on Cotton: Bad Week Hopefully Just a Hiccup   5-17

    Cleveland on Cotton: Market Remains Bullish Despite “Black Swan” Setbacks   5-17

    Weekly Cotton Market Review – USDA   5-14

    AgFax Southwest Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Ernst Undesser, Editorial Director. It covers cotton production in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis 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:
    Farm Journal,, 8725 Rosehill Rd., Suite 200, Lenexa, KS 66215
    ©2021 AgFax Media LLC

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