Southwest Cotton: Nervous About Nicholas

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Southwest Cotton, sponsored by the Southwest team of PhytoGen cottonseed.
    This is our final issue of AgFax Southwest Cotton for 2021. Many thanks to our exclusive sponsor, the Southwest team of PhytoGen cottonseed. We are grateful to Extension workers, crop advisers, dealer reps and others who lent their expertise and took the time to offer insight into this year’s cotton crop. Many thanks to our readers who keep opening the AgFax enewsletters.


    The hurricane/tropical storm brought sheets of rain to parts of the Gulf Coast as pickers tried to get the crop to the gin. The storms slipped past Corpus Christi-area fields, but they hit eastern Upper Coast cotton in parts of Wharton County. However, the El Campo area “dodged a bullet,” notes consultant Clyde Crumley.

    Does it pay to squeeze out the last drop to help boost yields this late in the season? AgriLife Agronomist Jourdan Bell discusses the pros and cons.

    Higher yields are expected over much of our coverage area. From 2-bale dryland to 5-bale irrigated, growers are itching to get pickers and strippers into the field once the crop finishes.

    For the most part, bugs never got the upper hand this season, other than continued stink bug pressure, says IPM’s David Kerns.



    Paul Pilsner, Pilsner Consulting, Wharton, Texas:

    “Hurricane Nicholas winds hit 70 mph or higher toward the coast. That and heavier rain could reduce yields by 30%.

    “However, most of the cotton-growing area in this part of the Upper Coast wasn’t hurt. We were very lucky. We had a half to 4 inches of rain but could have gotten a lot more.

    “Since we have about 50% of harvest remaining, we’ll be ready for things to dry out.”

    Clyde Crumley, Crumley Agricultural Consulting, El Campo, Texas: 

    “We were looking for the worst from Nicholas. But in the El Campo area, we dodged a bullet after having such bad luck with weather most of the year. We received less than 2 inches of rain in most cases and winds were not a big threat. I’m looking at blue skies right now (11 a.m. 9/14). However, things appear to have been worse down toward Wharton in Matagorda County. Winds gusted to 70 to 80 mph.

    “Our harvest is normally completed by now. But we remain two to three weeks behind and harvest is about one-third completed. Yields are better than anticipated. We’re making over 2 to 2.5 bales. The highest I’ve heard is 3 bales.”

    Justin Chopelas, JWC Consulting, Odem, Texas/Coastal Bend: 

    “There were worries about Nicholas, but we were on the dry side of it. We got about 2 inches at the farm, and I bet they didn’t get a half-inch in Corpus. Our area is 95% harvested, and a good rain would have been welcomed after harvest was completed.

    “Yields are well above what I expected. It will probably average 1,100 to 1,200 pounds. I’m continually surprised at how well these new varieties finish so strong late in the season. I’m flabbergasted. The PhytoGen varieties look fantastic — they shined. Deltapine also looks good, and the NexGen compensated well after thin stands from the start.

    Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist, Amarillo: 

    “Cracked bolls were seen last week after near 100-degree weather reduced the focus on the crop being late. But it’s likely too early to apply harvest aids. We need to let the cotton mature as much as possible to push for higher fiber quality.

    “Irrigated fields have good boll loads, especially north of Amarillo. They need to mature as much as possible. With the hot weather, it’s difficult to balance whether to irrigate the soil profile so the crop doesn’t die prematurely or chance that irrigation will further encourage late bolls, which may not contribute to yield but could hurt quality.

    “There is still good dryland cotton in the area, but there are reports that a few producers have failed-out their dryland for insurance purposes based on low boll counts. Producers were watching fields after stands were just good enough to keep them. But some have already terminated them, which is difficult for producers who have spent more on inputs.

    “Many fields are clean headed into the fall, but there are also weedy fields that have gotten away from producers who were likely unable to get herbicide applied at the proper time or labeled rate. We need to maximize our application volume to ensure complete coverage.

    “Auxin herbicides worked well if they were applied appropriately. In some XtendFlex fields that were sprayed late, producers found dicamba was not as effective on larger weeds as it used to be.

    “As we look at 2022 production, we wonder how producers will work their rotations after they made last-minute decisions to switch from cotton to other crops in the spring. In a good move, more producers are planting a wheat or small grain cover crop on cotton ground. This is a proven method for minimizing soil erosion during our typically windy periods in the spring.”

    Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas: 

    “We’re defoliating like crazy, and pickers are parked at the turnrow ready to go. The crop looks a little better than usual and is expected to average 1.5 bales per acre. We could hit 1.75 to 2 bales. It now depends on what happens with turnout at the gin. But the crop looks really white out there, so I expect a good crop.

    “Other than a few escapes in wetter areas we’ve sprayed all year, weed control looks good to end the season. Stink bugs didn’t cut us any slack. I had to spray a couple of late fields for stink bugs last week.

    “Overall, the crop is pleasing. And with the heavy rain expected from the hurricane further east, it looks like we dodged a cannonball.”

    Rex Friesen, Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Co-op, Winfield:

    “Our south-central Kansas area has been hot, and we’ve been glad to see it. It moved the crop up two to three weeks, which was needed to advance maturity, but we sacrificed a little production to the dry weather. We had been blooming out the wazoo but lost several of the top nodes of fruit due to a dry spell. Then we got nice rain. Everything that was going to fall off fell off.

    “What remains looks good. There are medium- to large-sized bolls. The lost fruit will cost us in yields, but we were worried about getting the crop finished. Instead of 1.5 to 2 bales-plus, there will be a lot of 1- to 1.5-bale cotton. That is disappointing because we’ve been spoiled with higher yields. But this was the hottest late August and early September we’ve had in a long time.

    “Weed control looks quite good. Guys have done a good job with herbicide applications.

    “Gins are ready to go, but it could be early October before they get started. We’ll start defoliating before the end of this month.”

    Ben McKnight, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, College Station:

    “I think we will finish alright if we can miss any detrimental effect of Nicholas. It has been a challenging year from a weather standpoint. Fortunately, we had dry, mild weather the past three weeks. Summer finally kicked in. Bolls quickly cracked, but I’m not sure if we caught up after being close to three weeks behind.

    “We were going to pull the trigger on defoliation this week, but we’re going to wait until the potential rain blows through. We wanted to keep leaves on the plants to provide more protection against the storm. I haven’t seen anyone picking in the Brazos Bottom, but there could still be some early fields being harvested.

    “We have many varieties at the Extension and research farm. The earlier-maturing varieties are there. The later maturing varieties have a little longer to go. Overall, yields appear to be average in the range of 2 to 3 bales per acre.

    “There are reports the Lower Rio Grande Valley is up to 95% finished with harvest, while the Upper Gulf Coast is about 30% harvested. Hopefully, growers there won’t see any more weather challenges.”

    Chuck Wilbur, Independent Crop Consultant, Wellington, Texas/Southeastern Panhandle/Southwestern Oklahoma: 

    “We’re in hard cutout on everything. A few guys are still irrigating to try and finish the top bolls. Others have turned off wells because the water is gone.

    “The last few weeks of hot, dry weather did in some early-planted dryland. Dryland planted in mid-June is still hanging on and could make 400 to 600 pounds per acre.

    The irrigated looks good. The new varieties responded well all the way across. Much of it could make 3 to 4 bales per acre, with an average of about 1,500 pounds. It all depends on the availability and management of water and the soil type.

    “Peanuts also look promising. A few growers have started digging. It’s a little early, but with the hot temperatures this past month, maturity has accelerated.”


    Murilo Maeda, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, Lubbock: 

    “The weather remains warm and dry, which is what many fields needed to capture heat units.  Parts of the region hadn’t had rain for three-plus weeks, so they could be hurting a little in the dryland.

    “It’s hard to estimate yields with so much variability from field to field. But there is good-looking cotton, both dryland and irrigated. All things considered, if we have a good fall that allows fields to mature, I think we’ll harvest above-average yields. I’ve been pretty pleased with what I’ve seen.

    “Fields look clean to finish the year. There are few weed escapes, which are expected. But considering the challenging wet weather we had, guys did a good job controlling weeds. That’s good going into 2022. As growers start planning for next year, they should get soil samples to help know what nutrients they have going into the next season.

    “This year was a good example of why they need a plan B. With the poor spring planting conditions, there were opportunities to switch to another crop. If growers knew what they were working with, it was easier to switch to a different crop.

    “Decisions on variety selection are always difficult. As our variety trials illustrate, there are many good varieties out there. But try not to go wall-to-wall with new varieties. If a specific variety or company’s seed selection works well for you, stick with it and experiment with new varieties on maybe 10% of your acreage. That’s usually a safe plan to follow.”

    Gary Beverage, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Artesia, New Mexico/Southwest Texas: 

    “It’s hard to say what yields will average, but it’s probably in the neighborhood of 3 bales-plus. There’s a chance guys will make 4.5 to 5 bales on the better ground. They should be smiling all the way to the bank.

    “Of course, it all depends on how the weather treats us later this month and into October. It has been a great September, with temperatures consistently in the 90s. We need that to continue and for heavy rains to stay away.”

    Randy Norton, University of Arizona Extension Cotton Specialist, Safford:

    “A fair amount of cotton has been picked in the Yuma area. Yields are strong. In our variety trials, yields are close to 1,800 pounds per acre. What we see out there translates across the state. We expect an above-average yield.

    “There is some late-season disease due to heavy rains in late summer. Alternaria is out there, but it should not affect the crop. There was late treatment for stink bugs. We’ve also seen leaf-footed bugs, which aren’t as common in our area.

    “We’re ending the year with pigweed still in a lot of fields. Through a project supported by Cotton Inc., we’re mapping fields to determine where pigweed issues can be found. We need to get growers’ attention. Pigweed is getting out of hand — just like it has in most other parts of the Cotton Belt. We should have good data later this fall and winter.”

    David Kerns, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Professor and Statewide IPM Coordinator: 

    “Other than heavy thrips pressure early on, it was a not a terrible year for insects in cotton. Cool, wet springs like we had this year typically cause higher thrips pressure. Insecticide-treated seed absolutely helped hold down thrips damage. Even though there are issues with thrips resistance in other states, I was pleased with the efficacy of seed treatments in our region.

    “There was a lot of diversity in insect infestations. Fleahoppers were moderate. We feel the wet weather kept fleahoppers from moving to cotton from pastures or other green areas. Then aphids came on, but they were transitory and didn’t persist in causing damage.

    “Bollworms were a concern in late June and early July after a typical moth flight. But the egg lay wasn’t as high as in most years. Bollworm numbers were low after early July. Wet weather may have helped hold them down, but we don’t know why numbers were low. Under the lighter pressure, even 2-gene Bt varieties held up well.

    “Our biggest problems were brown stink bugs. Many growers sprayed several times for them. A few spider mites blew up late, but were not much of a factor.”

    USDA’s September production forecast pegs all nationwide cotton production at 18.5 million bales, up 7% from the previous forecast and up 27% from 2020. Yields are projected at 895 pounds per harvested acre, up 95 pounds from the previous forecast and up 48 pounds from 2020. All cotton area harvested is forecast at 9.92 million acres, down 4% from the previous forecast but up 20% from 2020.

    Here’s USDA’s forecast for the Southwest Cotton coverage area:

    • Texas is expected to harvest 5.26 million acres from 6.36 million planted acres. Yields are forecast at 787 pounds per acre.
    • Oklahoma, 415,000 harvested acres from 485,000 planted; yield 856 pounds
    • Arizona, 128,000 harvested acres from 129,000 planted; yield 1,223 pounds
    • Kansas, 101,000 harvested acres from 110,000 planted; yield 1,069 pounds
    • New Mexico, 40,000 harvested acres from 48,000 planted; yield 919 pounds


    Autauga Cotton Turn Row: Crop Conditions, Harvest Aid Considerations  

    Texas Field Reports: Pecan trees showing good crop potential 

    Texas Plains Cotton: Pests Quiet, Get Ready for Harvest Aids 

    Thompson on Cotton: Mostly Calm with Neutral WASDE

    AgFax Southwest Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Ernst Undesser, Editorial Director. It covers cotton production in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the main cotton growing season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address:
    Farm Journal, 8725 Rosehill Rd., Suite 200, Lenexa, KS 66215
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