COLLEGE STATION – Despite so many cards being dealt against it through the growing season, South Plains cotton looks very promising, said Mark Kelley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist, Lubbock.
The region had a cooler-than-normal spring and late freezes, and remained locked in drought by mid summer, Kelley said. There were also the usual High Plains pitfalls of hail, high winds and blowing sand that knocked out some fields. And many dryland re-plantings of hailed-out or blown-out fields were late, bumping right up against the crop insurance planting deadlines.
And the latest discouraging development was that winter came early this year to the area, with freezing or near-freezing weather shutting down late-set boll development on late-planted cotton that could have really used another couple of weeks to finish out, he said.
“They had their first freeze earlier this month farther north, but around Lubbock we just recently had 32 degrees for a little bit the other night,” he said. “This means any boll maturation is done, so we’re just waiting for harvest aides to go out and dry those plants down to get them ready for stripper harvest.”
Kelley said the average first freeze for the area is around Oct. 31.
“We had some cotton that was pretty late planted and pushed hard by irrigation and sure could have used the rest of October to finish up, and some warmer temperatures too, but we don’t always get what we want.”?Yet early yield reports have been very good.
“I have heard of some very good yields coming out of the better-irrigated cotton,” Kelley said. “Some producers south of Lubbock actually made the one-ton club, or harvested four bales of cotton per acre. I heard another producer making two and one-half bales per acre, and that wasn’t on his better stuff. His better stuff is yet to be harvested.
“We were fortunate enough that after we got through all the bad weather, and the issues getting started, we had some pretty decent cotton-growing weather and were able to stick a lot of the early season fruit and take it to the gin.”
Dryland cotton could have used another rain toward the end of the season, around the first part of August, he said. But in areas where the farmers got some decent rains, Kelley said he had heard reports of 500 to 550 pounds per acre.
“That’s on some really good dryland,” he said. “On the rest of it, I’m hearing 250 pounds—a half bale per acre.”
Early reports on quality have been good too, Kelley said. But when some of the latest planted cotton is harvested, they may have low micronaire values, a measure of fiber characteristics that’s important for cotton classers and spinners, he said.