Severe Storms Wreaking Havoc on Cotton - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/10/03

Severe Storms Wreaking Havoc on Cotton

An outbreak of severe weather on the South Plains is wreaking havoc on the cotton crop. For the past three weeks, West Texas farmers have found themselves in a constant battle of man versus nature. The cotton is sick because of a number of weather related factors.

For Woodrow farmer Doug Hlavaty, this spring's severe storms have been some of the most destructive he's ever seen. "Has this been worse than most? Do you always deal with this? 'No, no, this is by far one of the worst,'" says Hlavaty.

After three weeks of non-stop severe weather, Hlavaty, like many South Plains farmers, is now in a race to save what he can, and replant the rest. We hopped in with him as he was scratching a field. It's the process of breaking up the hard crust left after heavy rains so the cotton still underground is able to break through.

"We've got a lot of sick cotton and I know we'll have to plant at least 200 acres over," says Hlavaty.

Despite a race to break the crust, this field, Hlavaty says, is by far his healthiest field because this cotton is so young.

Other cotton, which was planted earlier in the season and has been up for some time, has already been through too much. Not only has hail ravaged this crop, it's also been sand blasted by dust storms, scorched by static electricity and lightning, and it's now got a bacterial disease and fungus because of too much soaking rain.

"Each storm that we have, we have a lot of lightning and electricity with that storm that's causing the cotton to burn. And then the rain is causing blight and a lot of this cotton is getting sick and it's dying," says Hlavaty.

Cotton isn't the only thing farmers are losing to these severe spring storms. Just a few nights ago, Hlavaty lost two calves in this pasture after they were struck by lightning.

Hlavaty says, at this point, he's praying for clear skies.

So far, South Plains farmers have lost about 300,000 acres of cotton. That's about 10% of the total crop in this area. Most can be replanted, but the deadline for replanting is just days away, so these guys need the sun to come out and dry things up so they can get back in the fields.

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