Weather hasn’t been friend to this year’s cotton crop

Monti Vandiver, integrated pest management extension agent for Parmer and Bailey counties, holds a cotton plant damaged by the weather Tuesday in a field north of Farwell.

By Gary Mitchell

FARWELL — After a month of devastating winds, rain, hail and blowing sand, area cotton farmers are now hoping for just a little sunny weather.
Much of the cotton crop has suffered severe damage, said Monti Vandiver, integrated pest management extension agent for Parmer and Bailey counties. He said three-quarters of the 80,000 acres of cotton planted in Parmer County won’t make it to harvest.
“Of that 80,000, we’ll be lucky to have 15,000 to 20,000 acres left when it’s done,” he said. “And of the surviving acres, the yield potential has been reduced because of the damage or injury to the plants. We need an above-average warm September for those crops to make.”
He said the numbers in Bailey County are even worse.
“I would think that Curry and Roosevelt counties will fall close to those figures as well,” he said. “Eastern New Mexico’s crops are in the same condition as ours. The state line didn’t stop the weather. There’s still some decent patches of cotton, but they’re few and far between.”
The weather, generally considered the farmer’s friend, became his enemy last month, Vandiver said.
“The area-wide high winds, the 60-70 mile-per-hour winds in front of the thunderstorms, did the worst damage,” he said. “Sand will devastate cotton. That 15 minutes of high winds and blowing sand can rupture cells on the stems of the cotton plant, and as it warms up, the plant can’t translocate enough water to feed the leaves, so it dries up. Hail is the quick death, whereas the winds are a kind of slow death. Of course, it could be a fast death, too, if it really cuts loose. The plants could be black in the morning.
“Cotton this year has had everything go wrong that could go wrong,” he said. “Most of the cotton that really looks good is the no-till cotton, which has been planted into crop residue.”
Greg Howard, 41, who farms on a family farm north of Farwell, said the weather has taken its toll on his cotton crop.
“We’ve lost about 60 percent of our cotton,” he said. “We’re replanting right now. We had a hard, heavy rain earlier. That damaged the cotton and set it up for blight. Then, with the hail and winds, it just kept getting worse.”
Howard said he had some cotton in the field that has survived so far.
“We have good hopes for the cotton we’re leaving,” he said. “We missed some of the earlier bad weather. We’re just hanging on. We have some cotton fields south of Clovis that are looking pretty good. It’s tough to have to replant. We started once, and now we’re having to start over. But a farmer has to be optimistic, I guess.”
Vandiver said that 500,000 to 750,000 acres of cotton planted in the South Plains have been damaged.
The raw potential economic value of those lost acres was put estimated between $130 million and $188.5 million, according to the extension service.