Farmer: Cotton good planting option

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Chet Chenault, left, and Colin Chandler check the depth of cotton seeds planted by machine last week in Chandler’s field northwest of Portales. Chandler said cotton seeds must be planted about three-fourths of an inch deep.

Argen Duncan

Despite the drought and wind, a cotton farmer says the crop is a good option in Roosevelt County this year.

Farmer Colin Chandler said producers are planting only irrigated cotton now, compared to last year, when 30 percent to 40 percent was dryland.

“I wouldn’t say our acreage is going to be down any,” Chandler said of the county cotton crop. “I would just say we’re going to see more irrigated and less dryland.”

With high prices last year, Chandler said, farmers were able to get good contracts to raise cotton this year. Also, he said because of the lack of moisture, it’s better to plant cotton than corn because cotton can survive with less water.

“You’re not going to make a really good corn crop without the rain helping you, and right now we’ve had no rain,” he said.

The deadline to plant cotton that will be insured is today, and Chandler said estimates on acreage would be available afterward.

Roosevelt County Agriculture Extension Agent Patrick Kircher said he knew of a lot of farmers who wanted to plant cotton, but the dry weather meant there wasn’t enough soil moisture to get the crop to grow dryland.

“It is just so dry, everybody I’ve talked to is just holding their breath, waiting to see what happens,” he said.

If the area received just a little precipitation, Kircher said, farmers would be more optimistic.

In two to three weeks, Chandler expects farmers to have a better idea of how the county’s cotton crop will look. Now, farmers are planting or just beginning to see their cotton break through the ground.

Chandler said cotton plants are in danger of being burned by blowing dirt in the strong winds until they’re 8 inches tall. The crust on top of the soil and fine sand cause the problem.

To protect the young plants, Chandler plows his cotton fields to bring up wet soil to cover the loose dirt and keep it from blowing. Every time a farmer irrigates, he said, the water forms a crust and the farmer has to plow again.

When cotton reaches the 8-inch mark two or three weeks after coming up, Chandler said, wind is no longer a concern, although the possibility of hail is.