Southwest cotton crop looking really good, so far

by Vic Schoonover

July 4, 2014

Welcome rains throughout June encouraged farmers to not only plant cotton where it will be irrigated, but dryland cotton has also been planted. So far, the future of the 2014 cotton season has a good start.. Cotton planted where irrigation wells will probably do well with a minimum of watering before late August comes when the crop’s bolls will start to fill and mature.

Dryland cotton is at the mercy of how much and when any rain will fall. At least three to four inches in July and August are needed to keep the dryland crop heading towards a decent harvest.

Brandon Varner, assistant manager of the Red River gin owned by the Tillman Producers cooperative at Frederick, is optimistic his farmer clients will have at least a “good cotton crop.”

“Right now, we hope we will at least equal last year’s crop we ginned here,” he said. “If it keeps raining, it will be a very good crop. In 2013, even with the dry out occurring in August, we were able to gin 11,520 bales. That was a lot better than we thought we would receive. We expected to only gin around 7,500 bales then. Hopefully, 2014 will be a good crop for us.”

Varner said the Red River gin, located south of Frederick a few miles, has been adapted to better handle round bale modules processed by new harvesters that make their own modules.

Jeannie Hileman, manager of the Carnegie Farmers Cooperative gin in Caddo County, is happy with the crop’s growth so far.

“Our farmers have planted more than 10,000 acres of cotton this year,” she said. “About 75 percent of that is irrigated and we should see some good yields this year since rains in May and June got the crop off to a good start. “The dryland cotton planted around here looks good, too, but some of it has been damaged by drift from 2,4-D sprayed for brush control around here. With some more good rains, the cotton should outgrow the drift damage.”

Hileman’s gin processed 29,452 bales in 2013; having plenty of irrigated cotton to gin really helped them, she said. “So far, the year has been good to us with plenty of early rains and good weather,” she said. “We are hoping we will gin more cotton this year if the weather continues to cooperate.”

Randy Boman, Oklahoma State University director of cotton research located south of Altus at the OSU Southwest Research and Extension facility, says “Precipitation prospects in late June are very good. We picked up nine tenths of an inch at Altus this week of June 26. Over the past three to four weeks, we have good to great rainfall over many areas with four to six inches falling. “Unfortunately, in eastern Tillman, southern Comanche and Cotton counties, they have been on the very low side of that rainfall. We pretty much have everything planted with stands in most fields. Seedling disease issues have hot appeared yet. Some weed control, due to the heavy rainfall, has been needed in some fields.”

Boman said, according to the June 22, 2014, National Agricultural Statistics Service report, the Oklahoma cotton crop is rated at five percent very poor to poor, 42 percent fair, 52 percent good and one percent excellent

In an earlier spring cotton planting report, Boman noted, “recent rainfall has blessed a considerable area of western Oklahoma but, unfortunately, other locations have missed it. May started out cool and dry. Lows were 42 degrees for the first several days in May and a low temperature of 38 degrees was encountered May 14. After a warmup, many irrigated producers began planting cotton. Substantial rainfall fell in several important cotton counties including Harmon and Jackson. “The three and a half inches received at Altus really helped. Cotton planted in dry fields emerged and other fields were planted after the rains. Triple digit temperatures and high winds caused some fields to dry out again. On June 7, nearly 70 mph winds damaged some cotton stands, trees and structures. Some areas have unfortunately missed substantial precipitation from both of the earlier storm events.”

Many growers, Boman said in a recent Cotton Comments found at the NTOK website, who have not planted irrigated cotton found themselves up against the June 10 crop insurance deadline. Dryland growers in northern counties also had to face the same deadline, but in the far southwestern corner of the state found they had some time left to plant before the June 20 deadline he said

“A large number of cotton acres will be somewhat late with respect to planting dates, thanks to some badly needed and timely precipitation,” he said.

Boman said although there is good cotton in many counties to excellent, timely rains, additional rainfall is going to be needed to make a good crop. Back in May, exceptional drought still was in control in much of western Oklahoma with little of no subsoil moisture in the soil profiles, he said. Additional rain is needed to keep the dryland cotton crop growing, he said. “Unfortunately at this time, Lake Lugert is still about 11 percent of capacity with bo irrigation water available at this time,” he said. “Unless we have several significant and timely rainfall events the Lugert-Altus Irrigation Distict will struggle production for the fourth consecutive year.”