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Recent rain puts cotton growers in a good spot, dry conditions expected to return

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 7:10 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Heavy rain in May and June pulled us out of the drought, giving fiber producers a good start. But, the relief may not last for long.

”We go from very dry to very wet periods in a short time and likewise we can go from very wet to very dry periods in just as quick of a time period,” Ron McQueen, a lead forecaster at the Lubbock National Weather Service, said.

McQueen says in the past two months, regions in our area have received 125 to 300 percent more rainfall than normal. He says much of the moisture has soaked down into the soil, as “money in the bank,” something that might come in handy later this year.

Last week, the Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña watch for this fall, possibly continuing through the winter.

”And for our area, about 7 out of 10 La Niñas leads to a dry fall and winter,” McQueen said.

McQueen says the burst of growth right now could become dangerous later.

”That means that we should expect that there will be a high load of potential fuel for wildfires if we do in fact go into La Niña,” McQueen said.

Kody Bessent, the new CEO at Plains Cotton Growers, says heavy rain at the end of May and beginning of June delayed planting, but created ideal conditions for the crop. Now, it just needs some heat and timely rains, before another dry spell is set to hit this fall.

For now, cotton producers say the moisture is welcome. Total precipitation for the year so far is almost 13 inches, more than 3 inches above average through July 11.

Total precipitation for the year so far is almost 13 inches, more than 3 inches above average...
Total precipitation for the year so far is almost 13 inches, more than 3 inches above average through July 11.(KCBD)

”It has helped supplement some of the irrigation efforts that we have had to utilize in the past. It’s actually helped boost our rainfed ag growth conditions through supplemental rainfall and so that’s something we haven’t had in the last three to four growing seasons,” Bessent said.

Along with the heavy rain comes challenges, but Bessent calls them good problems to have. Growers are seeing more weeds than normal, while there’s a shortage in chemicals needed for herbicide.

”That’s causing producers to have to stretch their financial capabilities a little bit more than what they have in the last couple of years,” Bessent said.

Bessent says growers haven’t seen this type of price stability in the last 5 to 6 years, so having an adequate price in a good crop year could get many growers back to square one. He says that will add some wind to producers’ sails and help them move into the next year.

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