Farmers expect low cotton yields

It is looking like the cotton harvest in Parmer and Bailey counties will be below average in Parmer and Bailey counties and farmers worry that it may be even worse than last year.

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks

Parmer County Cotton Growers Co-op General Manager Craig Rohrbach inspects cotton Wednesday from a bale of cotton that just been processed though the cotton gin.

Monti Vandiver, Texas Agri-Life specialist serving Parmer and Bailey counties, said that because it's so early in the harvest season, its difficult to calculate what the exact yield will be, but from general observation he believes it will be down 10 to 20 percent.

"The irrigated cotton crops are still coming along pretty well, but dryland crops are almost non-existent," Vandiver said.

CNJ staff photo: Traci Tuttle

Derrick Hasseloff of Farwell harvested 60 acres of cotton Wednesday off of FM 145, three miles east of Farwell.

Many producers consider two bales an acre to be break-even on irrigated cotton but that number will vary from operation to operation.

According to Vandiver, 2012 has not been as hot and received a bit more rain compared to 2011, but was still hotter than the 30-year long-term average. The area received less than 50 percent of normal rainfall.

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station at Muleshoe recorded 6.55 inches of rain, but when you only consider rainfall events, which totaled one half inch or more than the 'appreciable' rainfall, it was only 2.2 inches of rain between January and September," Vandiver said.

"This year is looking like its going to be worse than 2011," said Bick Christian of Farwell, who farms in Oklahoma Lane, six miles east of Farwell.

Christian usually gets about three bales an acre, but expects a decrease of about one bale per acre this year on his irrigated land. On his dryland, he says he isn't even able to get a bale an acre.

In previous years, Christian produced about 5,000 to 6,000 bales of cotton from 2,000 acres of both dry and irrigated land, but this year he only expects about 1,000 bales total.

Kendall Devault of Farwell, who's been farming for 22 years, has been encountering the same problem.

"This is the widest spread of yields we've seen since I've been farming," said Devault.

Devault farms irrigated fields and his yield will range from not able to harvest at all, to three bales. Because its so early in the harvesting season, he's unable to predict what his average will be.

"The second year of the drought is that much more devastating due to less ground moisture. We've pumped our wells for two years now and don't have the well capacity in most places to pump the amount of water we need for the crops," Devault said.

Craig Rohrbach, general manager of Parmer County Cotton Growers, said that he's seen about a 40 percent decrease in cotton ginned this year compared to last. He pointed out that drought isn't the only cause of the decrease of cotton yields.

"Hail damage has cost a 20 percent loss in acreage this year and economics have drove water usage toward other crops," Rohrbach said.

Rohrbach noted that most growers will have to utilize some type of crop insurance on all or part of their acreage.

"Hopefully crop insurance indemnities will help cover crop losses but are certainly not a substitute for a good crop," said Vandiver.

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