Texas High Plains cotton producers are known for many qualities when they are in the middle of a crop season. Progressive, independent and focused are just a few words that might apply.
But there is no doubt that today’s producer in this region has to be flexible and adaptable if he hopes to withstand unpredictable weather and eventually deliver high quality cotton in the fall.
Such a description certainly applies to producer Matthew Rainwater who is part of a large family farming operation in Floydada, Texas, about 60 miles northeast of Lubbock.
This third generation cotton producer farms with his father (Randy), two uncles (Mike and Andy), two cousins (Brady and Eric) and his grandfather (Wayne) in an operation encompassing between 8,000 and 10,000 acres.
If a farming practice exists that can help deliver yields and quality in a cost-effective manner, the Rainwater farm is probably implementing it this year. As some observers like to say, this group of farmers is “way ahead of the curve.”
“If we can dodge the hail early in the season and have a warm fall, we can produce some great cotton,” says Matthew. “We deal with all kinds of weather situations here in what I call ‘hail alley.’”
Innovative Farming Practices
Besides planting three FiberMax varieties (9170, 9063 and 9180), the Rainwater farm employs a unique row spacing pattern (two rows 30 inches apart followed by a 50-inch skip), minimum-till, strip-till, LEPA and drip irrigation, picker and stripper varieties and dryland acreage.
The operation also has dryland wheat rotated with cotton and a small amount of corn planted near the best water sources on the farm.
Matthew says cotton production in his area requires that a producer be meticulous and attentive to every detail. In other words, mistakes can’t be made because of weather factors and a short growing season.
“We have so many things to deal with here that it’s critical that we do everything possible to give the cotton a chance to mature out during the season,” says Matthew. “Just last week we were dodging some 60 mile-per-hour winds, and that really slowed down our planting.”
Wild Texas Weather
So far, the weather has been more than unpredictable this year. It has actually been downright strange. Besides the usual early season hailstorms and high winds, this part of the High Plains had 90-degree temperatures during the last week of April and the first week of May.
Even Matthew hasn’t seen that kind of early season weather.
The Rainwater family usually deals with chilly temperatures in the early spring, meaning the water sometimes is shut off to give the irrigation pipes a chance to warm up. This enhances the crop’s ability to “chase every heat unit out there.”
Finding those heat units is crucial for the Rainwaters because the farm has a history of delivering above-average yields and excellent quality.
“Even with the bad weather we had last fall, we still averaged around 2 1/2 bales on all of our cotton,” says Matthew. “In the past, we’ve had close to four-bale yields on some of our best land. We’re proud of what we can deliver to the market in terms of fiber quality.”
Consultant Robert Carter has worked with the Rainwater family for more than 10 years and knows firsthand why this family operation consistently succeeds.
“These folks have an old school approach to farming,” says Carter. “By that, I mean that they go to the field and don’t leave until the task is completed. All of them – especially Matthew – are open to new production techniques. They work things out on the spreadsheet, and then they go make it happen. They really have it down to a science.”
Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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