What is in this article?:
• Together, the three Texas farmers have put in more than 150 years raising cotton in the unforgiving environment of West Texas.
• This year they’re facing one of the toughest droughts they’ve seen in a long time.
• But it might not be the worst.
Has unique characteristics
All three agree that the current drought might not be as bad as those of the 1950s, the 1944 or 1945 drought or the one that hit in 1980. But they all say the current one has some unique characteristics.
“This drought is not worse than the 1950s droughts,” Marble says. “But I don’t recall ever seeing this kind of hot weather and high winds that dry out everything. We can water a crop and in two days it’s all gone.”
He says last year was similar to 1951. “Then in 1952 we got no rain and we got no rain in 1956.”
Langston says the heat and wind combination make this drought especially hard. “The hot wind feels like a blast furnace,” he says. “Wind has been blowing at 20 to 25 miles per hour all day long and gusting to 50 miles per hour. It doesn’t take long for that hot wind to burn cotton if we haven’t been sand-fighting. I see dust devils everywhere.
“Even with irrigation, the heat and wind pull water out of the soil and seems to burn the plants a little. Everyone knew it was going to be dry when they planted and they cut as many corners as they could,” he says.
“For this time of year, conditions are as bad as I’ve ever seen.”
In 1998, conditions were “about as close to 2011 as any I remember,” he says. “We had a combination of heat, wind and drought. We had a lot of 100-degree days and a lot of wind that summer.”
“I have never seen it blow like this,” Gilbreath says, “and I’ve been here 80 years, except for four years in the service.”
He’s farmed on his own for 57 years. “I farmed in 1949 and 1950, then went into the service for four years and have been here ever since. I’m going to make another crop. I don’t plan on retiring.”
They plant a combination of irrigated and dryland cotton. They expect nothing from the dryland fields this year.
“I planted a lot of dryland cotton,” Marble says. “None of it is up. It will not come up; it’s too late. And we have thousands and thousands of acres in the area that will be lost.”
“Dryland acreage will make nothing,” Langston says. “It’s already nearly too late.” He says his son-in-law has about 55 percent of the acreage planted dryland.