Cotton harvesting snagged by rain

Kimberly Rubio

Assistant editor

Area cotton growers are anticipating reduced lint yield and decreased fiber quality as a result of excess rainfall this month.

Additional rainfall, which is expected this weekend, could further harm the crop that is waiting to be harvested.

In Uvalde, the crop is typically harvested in September.

The average price received by farmers for cotton during the 2017-18 marketing year was 74.10 cents per pound. Cotton lint color significantly contributes to the price at which the crop is sold.

Last week, local cotton farmer Archie McFadin was looking ahead to a weekend of rainfall in the forecase.

“After that, we will need to evaluate what effect this weather has had on the crop. I am optimistic, but we have to wait and see,” McFadin said.

Only .11 inches was received last weekend, but additional rainfall is expected this weekend.

Don Laffere of Uvalde, a former cotton grower, predicts September rainfall will greatly reduce cotton yield, decrease quality, and ultimately cost Texas cotton growers millions of dollars.

“It is going to reduce the yield severely, not to mention grade. I can imagine millions of dollars will be lost due to the rain,” Laffere said. “Right now, cotton is 75 cents, and if it isn’t good quality you might pick cotton and get 65 cents or 60 cents because of the grade, and that is where the loss will come in, not to mention yield.”

Steve Cargil of Cargil Farms Produce said Monday he has already noticed issues with his crop.

“There is going to be some quality issues. Some seeds have sprouted, some cotton has fallen out of the bolls. There is a loss of yield and a loss of quality,” Cargil said.

Cargil said he has already applied one application of defoliation, which is utilized to increase harvest efficiency, dry dew, and reduce boll rots.

“We are wanting to put our second application of defoliant out this week, and hopefully we miss the rain this weekend and are able to pick next week,” Cargil said.

Cotton is a fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plant. When rain occurs, precipitation soaks the lint, weighing the lint down and causing it to string-out. Strong winds may also cause the lint to fall out of the boll.

The moisture can cause mold and mildew to develop on the fiber causing spotting and discoloration.

“…This much rain can quickly saturate the soil, causing root death and lodging of the plants,” said Xuejun Dong assistant professor of crop physiology at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde. “Starting in September, cotton plants were ready to be harvested near Uvalde. Heavy rains have delayed harvest and may reduce fiber quality and increase production costs.”

Since cotton is a perennial plant, Dong said rain will cause new leaves to grow resulting in added cost of defoliation before harvest can be completed.

krubio@ulnnow.com, 278-3335



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