Lack of rainfall will prevent dryland cotton from making yields that seemed more than possible earlier in the season in both the Texas Plains and Western Oklahoma. But farmers in both areas will make some non-irrigated cotton this year, a better outcome than many achieved in the last few seasons.
Rainfall came to the Texas Panhandle and Southern Plains a tad late to make a really good dryland cotton crop, writes Texas AgriLife Extension media specialist Robert Burns in his weekly crop and weather update. He says Extension agronomist Mark Kelley, Lubbock, said dryland cotton had the potential to make “a very good crop,” in early August, even as it “teetered” on being moisture stressed. Rain did not fall in time to reach that yield potential.
“It’ll still make a crop,” Kelley said. “The question is how many bolls did they have set? What was the condition of the plant when the moisture did arrive? Does it still have the opportunity to produce cellulose and fill those bolls? There are a lot of unknowns out there, and a lot of different conditions and situations. It’s really hard to say. The dryland crop is not going to be a bust, but some is going to be about average and some is going to be pretty good.”
The situation is similar in Oklahoma. The latest issue of Cotton Comments, a newsletter from the OSU Southwest Oklahoma Research and Extension Center in Altus, reports that a lack of timely August rainfall resulted in “considerable moisture-stressed cotton in many areas of western Oklahoma.
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“In the far southwestern corner of the state, August was a brutal month and many fields crashed. With the crop entering the bloom stage in mid-July in many fields, crop stress by mid-August was an issue. When considering the marginal at-plant profile moisture, and in spite of good June and July precipitation in many areas, the far southwestern corner has not obtained enough August rainfall to carry a previously good to excellent rain-fed crop across the finish line.”
Substantial June and July rainfall in Oklahoma’s southwest corner was negated by a nearly 30-day August dry run. High heat and strong winds resulted in highly stressed cotton by the third week. “The irrigated crop is progressing very well where adequate irrigation capacity and water quality are available,” the report says.
Heat units needed
Additional rainfall in some areas provided an opportunity for good to excellent yields. One concern many producers have, especially in the irrigated area of Caddo/Blaine/Custer counties, is adequate heat units to mature a somewhat late but generally well-set crop.
Kelley says cotton production in the Texas Panhandle and Southern Plains is still heavily weighted toward dryland production, even with an increase in irrigated acres over last year. In 2013, about 37 percent of the crop was irrigated and 63 percent dryland.
According to reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, approximately 4 million acres of cotton were planted in the two regions by June. Kelley expects abandonment rate to be about 25 percent this year.
Some producers were able to stop irrigating on time this year, which should represent a substantial savings in production costs, Kelley said. He agrees that to finish well, dryland and irrigated cotton needs more heat units and for the first freeze to come at about the normal time.
“Currently there are a lot of reasons to remain optimistic about dryland cotton,” he said. “It could average out to be a pretty good dryland year. For sure, it’s going to be a much better crop than we had for the last three years, which was practically zero.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website.
The latest report from the Texas Water Development board indicates no change in drought status from last week. The state remains at 61 percent in moderate to exceptional drought. That’s a slight improvement over three months ago when 68 percent of the state was in that same drought range. A year ago, 87 percent of the state was in moderate to exceptional drought status.
The weekly update also noted that drought conditions are expected to improve in south Texas but continue over the rest of the state.
Reservoir levels also declined last week by some 175,000 acre feet.