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Agricultural News

Oklahoma Cotton Crop in Trouble

Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:34:37 CDT

Oklahoma Cotton Crop in Trouble

Cotton farmers had high hopes going into the 2014 growing season. With ongoing drought the last time Oklahoma produced a great cotton crop was in 2010, since then the crop has struggled pretty much every year. Oklahoma State University Research Director and Cotton Extension Program Leader Randy Boman said 2010 was one for the record books, but that's the only bright spot in recent memory. The 2011 crop was an absolute disaster for the southern plains, the worst in many decades, then 2012 and 2013 have gradually improved.

Going into the 2014 growing season there was a lot of concern early on due to having one of the driest starts of the year from January til May, then Oklahoma got into a wetter than normal pattern in May. Boman said that allowed more farmers to planting cotton in the southeastern part of the state.

"We actually had a lot of cotton go in, according to USDA NASS we're sitting at probably 240 thousand acres or so, which is up quite a bit from last year at 185 thousand acres," Bowman said.

The crop got off to a great start initially, but that optimism for a good crop has changed.

"Unfortunately the last week or two we just absolutely run out of gas," Boman said. "The moisture stress has hit the crop, we really haven't had much precipitation, I don't believe any precipitation thus far in August and so with the high temperatures triple digits, our evapotranspiration the crop use of the water has been really high, so we're just kinda hitting the wall."

Right now the crop is holding on, but it will depend on mother nature to finish out. Boman said this crop needs to receive some rainfall in the week or two it's going to help out in a lot of places.    

"If we don't do something in the next ten days to two weeks its not going to be very pretty, just because of the extremely high temperatures," he said.

It's not just the farmers who are depending on this crop. The ongoing drought has also impacted the state's cotton production and those industries that depend on having a crop to process.

"It hurts the guys that gin the cotton, it hurts the guys that move the cotton from the fields, they pick up the modules and take those modules to the gins and then that gets processed into the bales and everything gets separated, the lent, the seed and the trash," Boman said. "Of course we not hauling as much seed to the oil mill, so that's got ramifications there, we're not moving as many bales into the PCCA warehouses, so that has ramifications there, so a pretty significant economic hit.

And its not just cotton. In southwestern Oklahoma, Boman said there are several counties that have had failed wheat crops three of the last four years.

"It's really been kind of a tag-team effect on a lot of coops, because a lot of our coops handle grain as well as they have gins," Boman said. "So its been a really tough situation and that's really hard on the economic viability of our infrastructure."

Weather forecasters are predicting dryer than normal conditions to continue for several more years. Boman said that will be hard on all farmers and ag-related businesses.

"Our growers are pretty resilient and they have a good crop insurance safety net," Boman said. "Unfortunately with each year that we continue to have this significant drought impact we're eroding that safety net from a crop insurance perspective."

Crop insurance won't provide any coverage to the coops or gins causes they are not ginning the cotton, but it certainty helps farmers growing the cotton.

"Thank God for our crop insurance cause that really meant a lot to our producers and our banks and provided a lot of stability that didn't exist in other periods of drought such as say the 50's or the 30's," Boman said.



Ron Hays interviews OSU Cotton Extension Program Leader Randy Boman
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