The official survey numbers haven’t been released yet, but a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert estimates South Plains cotton abandonment will be about 40 percent.
“It’s hard to tell, as we’re all over the board here, but that’s what I’m hoping will be the most,” said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock.
Only a couple of months ago, it was looking much worse, Kelley said. Like most of Texas, the region had a cooler-than-normal spring and late freezes, while remaining locked in the stranglehold of drought. There was also hail, high winds and blowing sand that knocked out fields.
Many dryland and re-plantings of hailed-out or blown-out fields were late, bumping right up against the crop insurance planting deadlines.
Kelley noted there hasn’t been anything resembling “typical” for years, but typical abandonment rates are about 25 percent. And in the last few years, a larger percentage of cotton is being planted dryland, which usually has a higher abandonment rate. Currently, about 53 to 57 percent of the region’s cotton is dryland, he said.
So an abandonment of 40 percent, given all the adverse weather, doesn’t seem too bad, he said.
Complicating predictions are the fields of late-planted or replanted cotton.
“We typically start seeing a white flower out here in early July, and it was around the 15th before we started seeing white flowers.”
Some flowering has been much later than that, which puts it in risk of not maturing before the average date of the first frost in the South Plains on Oct. 31, according to Kelley. A freeze before maturity can drastically hurt yields and quality.
But Kelley was hopeful, he said, that as daytime temperatures become more moderate, and the nights become cooler, the outlook for a fairly good crop will improve.
“We do have a good fruit set, and if we have some help from Mother Nature to get these plants firing on all cylinders, then we still have the chance to make good yields,” he said.
The region – again typically – produces about 60 to 65 percent of the state’s cotton. This year, there were 3.7 million acres planted in the South Plains, according to Kelley.