Dry weather for several-weeks running has provided an early Christmas wish for cotton farmers across West Texas as harvesters operate in high gear gathering a near record crop.
“Harvest has gone quickly the past few weeks,” Karin Kuykendall said. “We are probably over three-fourth done … which is a lot considering we haven’t had a killing freeze across the region. It’s been spotty except for the northern Rolling Plains. They did get an earlier freeze than in past years that has impacted the crop in a negative way.”
Kuykendall is executive director for the 31-county Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association around Abilene, and 12-county Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association around San Angelo.
“The cotton crop looks really good. I don’t know yet if this year’s cotton crop is the best we have ever had across the Concho Valley, but it could likely be near the top,” Doyle Schniers told me.
He said weather-related problems early in the growing season forced some acre losses; however the planted acres that survived have produced a good yield.
“Cotton harvest is about 80 percent complete in the Concho Valley,” Schniers said. “The yields have been outstanding with averages ranging from a bale up to two-plus bales per acre on dryland and three and four bales per acre on irrigated fields. There have been several farms producing five bales per acre on irrigated land.
“I’ve always heard that a good crop is normally better than what we think it is and a bad crop is sorrier than what we think it is,” he said. “At any rate, I think most of the harvest will be done by Christmas. There will be a few that will not finish until after the holidays.”
Doyle and his twin brother, Daryl, operate their own farms in Tom Green and Concho counties, in addition to providing custom farm services.
There is also above-average cotton yields in the Winters and Wingate area, said longtime farmer Randall Conner of Winters. “There are a lot of 750 to 1,000 pound yields on several farms in the area. (A bale of cotton weighs from 450 to 500 pounds). The Runnels County cotton harvest is about 75 percent complete.”
“It’s White Gold around Tahoka,” said Perry Flippin. “Cotton farmers on the High Plains are enjoying a bumper harvest. No area produces more cotton than the Llano Estacado.”
Flippin, editor emeritus of the Standard-Times, grew up on the South Plains operating a ‘Popping Johnny’ John Deere pulling an open ‘wagon’ trailer gathering cotton before modules and round bales were invented.
“Lubbock County has reached about 40 percent of its harvest total, and north of Lubbock, harvest is around 25 percent complete,” said Mark Brown, director of field services for Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. “Variability has been influenced by the late planting date well into June.”