Cotton Links


Texas Producers Cope With Drought

By Tommy Horton

Despite blistering hot temperatures and severe drought, Texas cotton producers are coping as well as can be expected as they try to finish planting this year’s crop.

It’s never easy producing cotton on the High Plains, and this year is no exception. Drought conditions definitely had an impact on planting season, and now it’s a question of getting an early stand, if possible.

Fortunately, producer Benny White of Lamesa has been through this scenario before, and he’s usually prepared for any kind of weather event. When you’ve been farming for 48 years, there are no surprises.

White, who will plant 2,800 acres of cotton this year, has 1,600 of those acres irrigated either in a drip system or with center pivots. Even though the drought conditions have made it difficult, he still believes he can come close to duplicating his 3.5-bale crops of recent years.

Last year White had one of his best seasons when he became a member of the FiberMax One Ton Club.

“We have an advantage over the farmers north of us in the High Plains,” he says. “We get more heat units for a longer period of time, and our growing season is a bit longer.”

Seeking An Advantage

It figures that a Texas farmer needs every advantage if he is to survive the weather. That is what White thinks he’s doing. He clearly has confidence in his FiberMax varieties – FM 9180B2F, FM 9063B2F and FM 9160B2F.

He began growing FiberMax about seven years ago and likes how it has maintained consistent yields and high grades during that time period.

Even though the drought is creating problems throughout Texas, White says his situation in Lamesa isn’t quite as dire as other regions.

For example, he says there is still an adequate amount of underground soil moisture that should help his crop get off to a good start.

White also has had good experiences with Aeris insecticide and Stance plant growth regulator. He usually applies one ounce of Stance and has gone up to as high as three ounces per acre.

“Having a good plant growth regulator like Stance is really important when you’re trying to load the squares onto that plant,” says White. “It’s a good fit for what we need out here on the High Plains.”

White usually applies a combination of Aeris and Temik to control his insect pest problems, which primarily are thrips. Fortunately, he doesn’t have any other pest problems, and he’s hoping it stays that way.

Effective Formula

Most Extension experts in Texas say a cotton plant needs approximately 1,850 heat units in the growing season. As White sees it, that can be achieved if the weather cooperates, and if his management practices include a high performing seed variety, effective PGR and insecticide.

Tommy Doederlein, Texas AgriLife Extension agent (IPM), can attest to White’s success and proactive attitude toward cotton production. He has worked with him for 16 years.

“He’s a farmer who isn’t afraid to embrace new varieties and technology,” says Doederlein. “It’s pretty amazing that he gets these big yields, because the conditions can be tough in this part of Texas.

“I would just call him a progressive farmer who stays informed on everything. That’s how you survive out here on the High Plains.”

Another Texas AgriLife Extension agent, Monti Vandiver of Muleshoe, echoes Doederlein’s remarks. He can attest to the importance of intense management practices being essential in the High Plains. He is particularly impressed with a PGR that controls vegetative growth in a demanding production environment.

“Stance is a good fit here in the High Plains,” says Vandiver. “The weather changes dramatically and goes from extremely dry to wet in a short period of time. Sometimes the crop is difficult to manage, and that’s why we need to use every tool at our disposal.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or thorton@onegrower.com.

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