Weather, to no one’s surprise, topped the list of 2011 concerns for cotton consultants and their clients from Texas to North Carolina.

And, based on regional reports during the annual Cotton Consultants Conference, weather issues included the gamut from record-setting drought, unrelenting heat, devastating floods, humidity and hail stones as big as lemons.

The consultants’ conference is a kick-off for the annual National Cotton Council’s Beltwide Cotton Conferences, held this year in Orlando.

 “In 2011 weather took precedence over every other issue,” said Stanley Winslow, Tidewater Agronomics, Camden, N.C.

“I don’t do crop estimates anymore,” he said, since too many things can happen to a crop from the time it begins to set fruit and when farmers harvest.

“Last year started out extremely hot and dry,” Winslow said. “The crop opened earlier than usual.”

Then Hurricane Irene hit. Early cotton had about 20 percent of the bolls open when the storm hit and most of those were lost. “After Irene, we had another 14 days of hot, drizzly weather that resulted in boll rot and hard lock. We lost a lot of the crop. Some farmers who were harvesting 1,000 pounds per acre before those 14 days of bad weather harvested 700 afterward.”

Winslow said average yield would be from 600 to 700 pounds per acre.

“Hot and dry,” sums up the top concern for central Texas cotton farmers in 2011, said Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting Services of Hewitt, Texas. “We set records for hot weather and drought,” Nemec said. “We had 90 days or more of temperatures above 100 degrees. And we had 40 days when nighttime low temperature were 80 degrees or hotter.”

He said central Texas cotton farmers “had no substantial moisture” available to plant cotton. Farmers made attempts to water the crop up and even that resulted in less than desirable results.

“Some applied a half-inch of water and the next day it looked like a dustbowl.” Emergence was spotty. He said some plants emerged as much as 30 days later than first emergence. Some of those fields were replanted.

“Non-uniform emergence affected plant growth regulator applications as well as harvest aide sprays,” Nemec said. Some farmers decided to wait to defoliate even after 80 percent of bolls were open, hoping to make that other 20 percent. “They lost a lot on the ground,” he said.