Writer: Joe Bryant, (806) 746-6101
Contact: Kater Hake, (806) 746-6101
LUBBOCK–Lack of rainfall and a declining water table pose problems for cotton growers on the Texas High Plains as they begin preparing their fields for planting. Some 6.4 million acres of cotton are expected to be planted in Texas this year, with some 4 million of that on the High Plains.
Since Jan. 1, the 25-county area around Lubbock which annually produces about half of the state’s cotton has received less than an inch of rain. Lubbock has recorded only 0.97 inches of precipitation – – about half its long-term average for the first three months of a year.
Combined with the below-average precipitation last year, fields are without adequate subsoil moisture for planting and for a good growing season, said Kater Hake, cotton agronomist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
“Fields without some deep water could suffer severe loss if July rains (during the peak of the growing season) aren’t timely,” Hake said. Some farmers who irrigate from wells are running into problems as they water fields in preparation for planting in the next few weeks, he noted.
“Well capacity is down substantially from 1994, and many wells are pumping dry during the prewatering,” Hake said. He said that the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 reports that the average pumping depth dropped about 2 feet from last year. The water district noted that the year before, the average water depth dropped 1 foot, while the 10-year average annual decline has been 6 inches.
“Although producers are working their fields, applying herbicides and prewatering, conditions are less than optimum,” Hake said. He noted that high winds and unusually high temperatures are resulting in evaporation losses of pre-plant irrigation water.