Farmers racing to save Lubbock’s biggest cash crop from rain - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/21/10

Farmers racing to save Lubbock’s biggest cash crop from rain

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By Michael Slother - email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – With severe weather across the south plains, cotton farmers are worried about the impact it will have on their harvest.

Many worked late Wednesday night and hoped to work early Thursday to stay ahead of the storm. Thursday morning's humidity made that nearly impossible. Humidity needs to be around 50% to be able to harvest the crop. The average Thursday stayed between 70 and 80%

Cotton needs to be dry before it's harvested and with the moisture from the high humidity, farmers like Rex Kennedy were forced to wait. "You want the cotton to be completely dry. You want the burrs to be completely dry, and then inside the seed. If you can bite it, then it's ok," he said.

Kennedy said the rains can stir up mud which discolors the cotton and decreases its' value.

Weather can be a friend or foe for the farmers. A month ago, good weather allowed for a good start.

"Moisture is a double edged sword," Kennedy continued. "This time of year you don't want moisture, but you need it to put the crop out next year."

Thursday night's severe weather can ruin everything a farmer works for. "Any hail this time of year, It's going to pull some of this cotton up and put it on the ground. Once you put the cotton on the ground you can hardly pick it up," Kennedy said. 

With cotton value being at the highest value in the last decade, they want to keep as much of it as possible. Farmers say the longer the cotton actually stays on the plant, the more at risk it is for bad weather. They want to get it off the plant, into bales, and underneath protective tarps to keep the rain out.

"You can't store cotton in modules when its wet because that deteriorates the cotton and deteriorates the grade," Kennedy said.

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