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Agriculture Today


South Plains cotton abandonment at about 40 percent


South Plains cotton abandonment at about 40 percent
Much of South Plains cotton was late to bloom this year by two weeks or more, according to Mark Kelley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist of Lubbock.


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Robert Burns
August 14, 2013
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COLLEGE STATION -- The official survey numbers haven’t been released yet, but a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert estimates South Plains cotton abandonment will be about 40 percent.

“It’s hard to tell, as we’re all over the board here, but that’s what I’m hoping will be the most,” said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock.

Only a couple of months ago, it was looking much worse, Kelley said. Like most of Texas, the region had a cooler-than-normal spring and late freezes, while remaining locked in the stranglehold of drought. There were also hail, high winds, and blowing sand that knocked out fields.

Many dryland and replantings of hailed-out or blown-out fields were late, bumping right up against the crop insurance planting deadlines.

Kelley noted there hasn’t been anything resembling “typical” for years, but typical abandonment rates are about 25 percent. And in the last few years, a larger percentage of cotton is being planted dryland, which usually has a higher abandonment rate. Currently, about 53 to 57 percent of the region’s cotton is dryland, he said.

So an abandonment of 40 percent, given all the adverse weather, doesn’t seem too bad, he said.

Complicating predictions are the fields of late-planted or replanted cotton.

“We typically start seeing a white flower out here in early July, and it was around the 15th before we started seeing white flowers.”

Some flowering has been much later than that, which puts it in risk of not maturing before the average date of the first frost in the South Plains on Oct. 31, according to Kelley. A freeze before maturity can drastically hurt yields and quality.

But Kelley was hopeful, he said, that as daytime temperatures become more moderate, and the nights become cooler, the outlook for a fairly good crop will improve.

“We do have a good fruit set, and if we have some help from Mother Nature to get these plants firing on all cylinders, then we still have the chance to make good yields,” he said.

The region -- again typically -- produces about 60 to 65 percent of the state’s cotton. This year, there were 3.7 million acres planted in the South Plains, according to Kelley.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported hot and dry conditions continued. Rains were very spotty, with only a few light showers. Pastures were showing signs of drought stress. The corn and grain sorghum harvests continued. There was very little hay being baled due to drought conditions and grasshopper pressure. Irrigated cotton made progress. Dryland cotton was severely stressed. Livestock producers began supplemental feeding of livestock.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported the region was hot and dry. The corn and grain sorghum harvests were nearly finished. Early estimates were about half of grain fields will be declared a total loss, with below-average yields for most fields that were harvestable. Corn yields were from zero to 100 bushels. Cotton bolls were opening, and producers will have to make decisions about defoliation soon. The rice harvest began this week. With 100-degree temperatures and no rain, rangeland and pasture conditions were quickly declining.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported persistent winds and temperatures in the mid-90s to 100s dried out soils throughout the region. Soil-moisture levels were short to very short. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition in the northern, eastern, and western parts of the region, and poor in the southern parts of the region. Corn was doing well in Atascosa and Frio counties. All corn was silking, doughing, and denting in both counties, and 40 percent of the crop was already harvested in Frio County.

Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.
 

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