There is an old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” That may be true in Texas, north of Interstate 20. But it is complicated because Texas seasonal temperatures vary a lot from south to north, while the rainfall varies a lot from east to west. As a result, the Central Texas bluebonnets in late March were begat by winter showers. And the acacia brush in South Texas blooms earlier than that, with hardly any showers at all.
When it comes to cotton, the variations in average temperature and moisture, plus technology and tradition, have led to a variety of average planting dates. These planting date differences are codified in the planting deadlines for upland cotton that are enforced by USDA RMA (for example, see Figure 1a. for non-irrigated cotton; the irrigated cotton map looks very similar).
The 2015 season is a different kind of year. A strong El Niño effect has been bringing abnormally high amounts of spring moisture. Below Interstate 10, the excess moisture has already led to considerable prevented planting of intended cotton acres. It remains to be seen how this will cut into the prospective plantings of cotton, as measured by USDA on March 31.
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We are well into the normal planting period for the northern half of Texas. The wet weather has been interfering with planting there, too. But the potential outcome is more complicated. The Interstate 35 corridor has a planting deadline of May 31.This region is a traditional cotton growing region, although the planted acreage averages less than 175,000 acres. It is possible to see some prevented planting in this region, but we will have to see. A number of northern Panhandle counties also have a May 31 planting date, so we’ll have to see if all the intended cotton plantings made it.
The trade-off in potential cotton production involves the question of what happens to the South Plains and Rolling Plains regions. These regions typically plant almost 4 million acres, most of which is dryland. Average dryland yields are low, but during rainy El Niño years those dryland acres can yield 1.5 bales per acre or more. That adds up to a lot of bales, as we saw in 2007. The planting deadlines for these regions are in June. Assuming all these intended acres get planted, and assuming no widespread seedling disease problems, the moisture situation out there is probably a net benefit. It is quite possible for the excess bales produced in Northwest Texas to replace the bales that would have come from South Texas—or something in-between. As always, we will have to wait and see how it plays out.
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