When all is said and done, it looks to be a bumper year for South Texas farmers who, for the most part, have suffered greatly at the hands of Mother Nature over the last several drought-stricken years.
As cotton strippers continue to roll in the Coastal Bend and farther south in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, some remarkable reports are surfacing about just how good the year is turning out the be, and not just for cotton but for corn and grain sorghum as well.
"While we have seen better years for cotton, a rapid increase in heat units over the last week or so has caused cotton to explode this week across the Coastal Bend," reported National Cotton Council representative Dwight Jackson in Corpus Christi. "They [farmers] are getting it out of the field as fast as equipment can roll and so far yields look very good on most fields."
Jason Ott, Extension agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Nueces County, agrees.
"I would say cotton harvest is mostly wrapping up in Nueces County. Not every field has produced good cotton, depending on how much rain each field received, but even some farmers who failed to get a good crop from one field have mostly had a good crop on adjacent fields. It's a hit and miss year because of the weather, but much better than the last couple of years," he said.
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Ott says if cotton yields were averaged out across the county he would guess the yield would hover somewhere around a bale and a half per acre—“or a little more.”
"Enough that every cotton gin across the area is alive with activity, and last year hardly any gin was operating as far as I know," he added.
Good yield and quality
He says a good cotton harvest is proving to be a major economic boost to the county after multiple years of poor or non-existent production.
While strippers are just now beginning to role north and west of the Coastal Bend, early reports indicate cotton quality and yields are good in those areas as well.
Down south in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) most producers are confirming a great year not just for cotton but also for corn. Juan Anciso, a vegetable expert at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Weslaco, reports mild temperatures and timely rains are contributing to what could be a record corn year for South Texas.
"Corn benefits from cooler weather," Anciso said. "There were more timely rains in June and we got occasional rain through the growing season. It's a great year for corn."
Texas A&M University Grain Marketing Economist Mark Welch says new varieties of corn are thriving in areas where irrigation water and rainfall are marginal.
"That’s why the Corn Belt has shifted west," he notes.
Anciso says compared to recent years it would be hard to beat the quality and yields of cotton coming out of LRGV fields.
"We didn’t start off the year on our best foot. Planting was delayed because soil temperatures were too cool because of the extended winter," Anciso said. "But we had good weather for cotton. It hasn’t rained in the last couple of weeks, and rain can cause the squares to fall off."
Traditionally, the Valley delivers the nation's first bale of cotton. The first bale rolled in the last week of July and farmers have been at work ever since. Cotton harvest has all but wrapped up, though no official numbers are available. But those within the local industry say it looks like it is turning out to be a great year for cotton as well as for corn.
Grain sorghum also looks to be exceptional. In spite of serious infestations from sugarcane aphids in both the Valley and across the Coastal Bend, production numbers in most areas has been reported as "off the wall." Official numbers won't be released for some time but preliminary reports from across the Valley and up the coast indicate a bumper year for sorghum.