Finishing of Panhandle cotton harvest delayed by wet, damp weather
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – A variety of factors – mostly weather — have delayed the finishing of the cotton harvest in the Panhandle, Rolling Plains and, to a lesser degree, the South Plains, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomists.
“Our cotton harvest was delayed by fog and high humidity in the early part of December,” said Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo. “Then in the end of December, we had several inches of snow that further delayed our harvest.”
During mid-January, the area had drier, warmer days that allowed producers to catch up harvesting, but on Jan. 21, a new winter storm system was moving into the Panhandle, with as much as 8 to 10 inches of snow in the forecast, Bell said.
“Several producers have commented that they expect to still be harvesting in February,” she said.
Until the delay, yields and quality were very good, despite earlier difficulties, she said. Irrigated yields were as much as 3.5 bales per acre, and dryland from a half to one bale per acre.
“Yields are variable in our late harvested cotton,” she said. “In the cotton being harvested yesterday (Jan. 20), I saw a lot of trash, the color didn’t look as good, and it was really starting to string out.”
Rolling Plains growers faced some of the same conditions as those in the Panhandle, according to Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, College Station.
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“I was in the western Rolling Plains, down to Stanford and to the Permian Basin, Tuesday and the day before. In the western and central Rolling Plains, I would guess that 5 to 7 percent of the cotton is still in the field; maybe even 10 percent,” Morgan said. “There were numerous cotton strippers harvesting freshly made modules in the fields.”
Quality will be down somewhat, Morgan said, but he didn’t expect too big of discounts across the board.
“Some producers mentioned that they were getting really high leaf grades,” he said. the Abilene Classing Office has shown a steady increase in bark contamination with the latest levels being at 30 percent, up 15 percent from the first of the year. The delayed harvest in December has probably exaggerated the leaf-grade issue, but September rains that prompted a lot of top growth is the primary culprit. This top growth made defoliation a challenge this year, and the hard freeze in November caused most of the new leaves to stick on the plants.”
Otherwise, Rolling Plains yields were pretty much what was expected for the year, with yields varying widely, but three-quarters of a bale-per-acre dryland cotton was common, Morgan said.
The South Plains crop was mostly harvested and in modules waiting to be ginned, according to Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Lubbock.
“The latest cotton to be harvested has had to endure some weather events that have reduced color grades from 21 to 31 and increased bark content,” Kelley said. “Any cotton remaining in the field will most likely be lower in quality as well.”
Kelley said soil moisture is currently good, which is welcome news for those planning on planting cotton this spring.
“If we continue to receive winter moisture and get a decent preplant shower, there should be enough available moisture to get most cotton crops established this growing season and perhaps enough to develop an excellent root system,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Most counties reported soil moisture, rangeland, pastures and overall crop conditions as good. Livestock were in fair condition. Unfortunately, the last two weeks of cold, damp weather was not associated with any significant precipitation. Conditions were just wet enough to keep cotton and pecan producers from being able to complete harvesting. Soil moisture was good, but heavy rains were needed to fill stock tanks and lakes. The hard freezes and damp weather during December and January slowed the growth of oats and wheat. Livestock were in moderate to good condition. Livestock producers were providing supplemental feed, and cattle were in fair condition.
Coastal Bend: Soil moisture was good; topsoils were saturated. Most of January was cloudy, cold and rainy, putting fieldwork and preplant fertilizer applications at a standstill. Winter grasses were poised for good growth when they get sunshine. Volunteer winter forages were coming along nicely. Livestock producers were feeding hay and protein. Markets continued to be high. The pecan harvest was nearly completed.
East: The region had abundant moisture and cooler temperatures. Lakes, ponds and creeks were full to overflowing. Jasper County reported flooding. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were mostly adequate throughout the region, with many counties reporting surplus levels. Most producers were feeding hay and other supplements. Hay sales were slow as most producers’ supplies were sufficient. Saturated soils kept some producers from entering fields to feed hay. Lack of sunshine slowed winter pasture growth. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cattle prices remained strong. Houston County cotton farmers were considering not planting crops in 2015 due to low market prices and high labor and equipment costs.
Far West: Conditions were very cold with all moisture coming in the form of freezing rain or drizzle. Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate to short, while subsoil moisture was short. Pastures and rangeland were mostly in fair to poor condition. Andrews County pecans were 95 percent harvested. The Upton County upland cotton harvest was completed. Winter wheat was mostly in poor to very poor condition.
North: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate with a few counties reporting shortages. Much-needed rain during the first three weeks of January was accompanied by colder temperatures. The rains benefited wheat, oats and winter annual pastures. Runoff also helped replenish stock ponds. Winter pastures were still short, but it was hoped that forecasted warmer weather would soon jumpstart ryegrass growth. The rains made muddy conditions for cattle producers trying to feed cattle during the cold weather. Some cattle producers had to pull cattle off winter pastures because of soggy, muddy soils. Feral hog activity was spotty.
Panhandle: Snow accumulations varied across the district, from a light dusting to several inches, as did the moisture associated with it. Conditions then warmed up and became dry and dusty in most areas. Producers in several areas were trying to finish up cotton harvesting after being kept out of fields by the snows and below-freezing temperatures. The winter wheat crop benefited where there was heavier snowfall, but others were seeing the crop decline. Some producers may start irrigating wheat with the warmer temperatures. Cattle on wheat pasture were making good gains, although supplemental feeding was required. Some stocker cattle were already being taken off wheat.
Rolling Plains: The region had precipitation in January, but not enough to create runoff for stock tanks and lakes. Much of the area remained in exceptional drought. Livestock were generally in fair to good condition, with many producers feeding hay and supplements. Damp days and overcast conditions delayed the cotton harvest, but it was nearing completion. Pastures were greening up with winter grasses. Pecan crop yields was fair to good, with harvesting winding down.
South: The region continued to be cold, wet and cloudy. In the northern part of the region, soil moisture was 75 to 100 percent adequate. Frio County crop producers continued planting throughout the week. La Salle County received so much rain there were areas with standing water. In McMullen County, some cow herds were calving. Supplemental feeding increased in McMullen and surrounding counties. In the eastern part of the region, continual drizzle and light rains raised soil moisture. Duval County reported 60 percent adequate, Jim Hogg County 50 percent adequate, and Jim Wells, Kleberg and Kenedy counties had 100 percent adequate soil moisture. Jim Hogg County ranchers continued supplemental feeding of wildlife and livestock. Jim Wells County row crop producers were planting. In the western part of the region, soil moisture ranged from 100 percent adequate to 75 percent short. Maverick County producers were preparing fields for spring planting. Some producers had already planted winter oats. In Zavala County, cold and damp conditions delayed the harvesting of fresh and processing spinach. Onions, cabbage, wheat and oats were progressing well. Webb County ranchers reduced supplemental feeding as cattle had good winter grazing. In the southern part of the region, soil moisture was 100 percent adequate in Cameron County, 100 percent surplus in Hidalgo County, 80 to 90 percent surplus in Willacy County and 80 percent short in Starr County. Vegetables were progressing well. Field operations halted, but citrus and vegetable harvesting continued in Hidalgo County. In Starr County, winter vegetable crops were progressing well. In Willacy County, very wet field conditions put sorghum growers behind in planting.
South Plains: Topsoil and subsoil moisture were improved by recent snowfall. The moisture from the snow was particularly beneficial to winter wheat. Pastures and rangeland remained in fair condition. Mornings were cold and wet, with weather clearing in the afternoons, which allowed producers to continue harvesting. Most cotton was harvested, with only a few fields left to do in several counties. Most area gins were very close to finishing up the season. Lubbock County reported the official precipitation for January as 0.49 inches. Producers were shredding cotton stalks and planting wheat cover behind late-harvested cotton. Due to low cotton prices and high input costs, farmers were weighing options for the crop mix for spring.
Southwest: Conditions were unseasonably cold and damp but there was no associated precipitation and little sunshine. Winter forage was doing well in ranges and pastures. Wheat and oats were in good condition. The pecan harvest was winding down. Farmers were getting ready for spring planting. The cold, damp weather was hard on livestock, making supplemental feeding of hay and protein essential to keep them in fair to good condition.
West Central: The region remained mostly dry, with temperatures changing from cold to warmer late in the week. Most days were cool with cold nights. Soil moisture was adequate, but all areas could have used more moisture. The cotton harvest was mostly completed, with ginning a few weeks behind. Some cotton that remained in fields was being shredded. Most winter wheat was in good condition, with producers spraying some fields for worms and spider mites. Some wheat fields showed signs of recent freeze damage. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to poor condition, but needed rain for improvement. Winter pastures looked good, but most cattle producers were still feeding hay and supplements. Livestock were in fair to good condition as the calving season began. Yearling cattle on grain were doing very well. Stock tank water levels continued to drop. The pecan harvest was mostly completed.