What is in this article?:
• In 2011 weather took precedence over every other issue in North Carolina
• Texas set records for heat and drought.
• Extremes were the rule for Mid-South growers.
STAN WINSLOW, right, cotton consultant from Camden, N.C., visits with a group of fellow crop consultants, including Ray Young, second from left, after Winslow spoke at the annual Cotton Consultants Conference in Orlando, Fla. The consultants conference is the lead-off event for the 2012 Beltwide Cotton Conferences. Young, often considered the dean of cotton consultants in the United States, is from Wisner, La.
Wind was a problem
Wind also played havoc with the 2011 central Texas crop. Daily winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour dried out the soil and prevented timely herbicide applications. The dry soil limited tap-root growth and affected fruit set, Nemec said.
“The heat caused pollination problems.” Top bolls were small and misshapen. He said some top bolls cracked before earlier, bottom bolls, because of the heat, which reached 118 to 120 degrees in those top bolls.
Cattlemen benefitted somewhat from abandoned cotton. “Some growers shredded and baled zeroed-out cotton,” Nemec said. Livestock producers were glad to get it since hay was in short supply over most of the Southwest.
“We had very little insect pressure,” Nemec said. “Fleahopper pressure was light. We saw some stink bugs on irrigated cotton.”
He said Texas cotton farmers have “joined the party. We now have glyphosate-resistant waterhemp.” The problem may have been worse last year because dry soils prevented soil-applied herbicides from working as efficiently as usual. “And we don’t have enough hoe hands,” to take care of weed pressure.
Harvest fires also caused trouble. The low humidity and high temperatures made stripper fires more likely, Nemec said. “One of my farmers said his stripper caught fire four times during the harvest season.”
A positive report in the gloom and doom of weather issues, he said, comes from the Boll Weevil Eradication Program. “It’s working. We caught only 28 weevils in our zone last year and most of those came from a few fields in the river bottoms.”
He said some farmers made decent cotton — from 2 to 2.5 bales per acre where water was plentiful. “But applying irrigation one day late made a difference.”
Nemec said the area has received rain in the past few weeks, as much as 8 inches in some areas. “But rivers, stock tanks and ponds are still low. We haven’t seen any runoff.”
Conditions may have been even worse in the Texas High Plains, said Bob Glodt, Agri-Search, Inc., in Plainview. He rolled off a bevy of adverbs to describe just how bad it was. “It was unbelievably, unprecedentedly, unrelentingly hot and dry,” he said.
Rainfall for planting was all but non-existent, and that during a time when cotton needs about 6 inches of moisture to get up and off to a decent start, he said. “A lot of farmers applied more than 3 inches of irrigation water just to get the crop up and to the two-leaf stage.
“By June, or even in late May, the dryland crop had failed and irrigated cotton was struggling to keep up. But we had no mosquitoes.”
And wind was constant. “I’ve never seen windy conditions to match 2011,” Glodt said. “We often had 45 mile-per-hour winds blowing all day. The evapotranspiration level was phenomenal. It was impossible to keep up.”
Glodt said farmers planted 4.53 million acres in the 41-county High Plains area. Of that, 2.48 million was dryland cotton. Some 2.18 million acres of that dryland production failed. “That’s 87 percent of the dryland crop,” Glodt said.
Of the 1.92 million irrigated acres planted, 23,000 failed. Much more produced less than typical yields.
Glodt said corn farmers abandoned a high percentage of acres. Some water resources were converted to cotton.
He said High Plains cotton farmers also dealt with a new insect pest, Kurtomathrips, is a thrips that has been detected before in Texas and Arizona but not in the High Plains for a long time. The pest seemed to concentrate on the most severely drought-damaged cotton so growers may have assumed injury came from drought.
Control, when the pest is identified, is not particularly difficult, he said.