Musings from Mark: High Plains Cotton ConditionsFri, 22 Jul 2022 11:36:07 CDT
Cotton growers on the High Plains planted an estimated 4.3 to 4.4 million acres of cotton in 2022. This growing season has dealt many challenges to producers. After a dry winter and a large 2021 crop, the 2022 season began with virtually no sub-soil moisture aside from pre-plant irrigation. Spring/summer growing challenges included: high winds, below normal rainfall, high temperatures and isolated damaging hail. On May 22nd, Amarillo recorded a minimum temperature of 39 degrees. Lubbock has experienced more than 20 days at or above 100, with more in the forecast. These conditions have been reminiscent of the epic drought of 2011.
The deadline for certifying acreage was July 15th, so we are still awaiting official reports of planted and failed acres. More than half of the acres are non-irrigated. We have already lost most of the dryland acres to drought and some of the irrigated acres to wind, hail and excessive heat.
Many cotton fields in the northern Panhandle are thin and estimated at 10 days behind normal development. Most of our region continues to suffer from lack of rainfall and high temperatures. A few “July 4th” blooms were observed in early planted fields. Many fields are reaching early bloom as of mid-July, with a range of five to nine nodes above white flower (NAWF) in irrigated fields. Many drylands fields have already reached cutout (4 or fewer NAWF) Many fields do not have enough irrigation capacity to keep up with evapotranspiration demand during bloom, so yield potential will continue to decline in those fields without rainfall.
The percentage of fruit retention is very good in most fields. The National Weather Service official rainfall in Lubbock is 4.79 inches (43% of normal rainfall January through July). Lubbock has experienced 27 days at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit thus far in 2022. In 2011, 48 days at or above 100 degrees were recorded.
As fields enter the bloom and boll set phase, daily water use increases rapidly as does nitrogen uptake. Evapotranspiration was high this week because of extreme temperatures. Therefore, fields experienced increased water demand. Many dryland fields are blooming out of the top of the plant.
The intensity of this drought is not as widespread across the High Plains or other regions of Texas as compared to the 2011 drought, although, some counties are just as severe. However, three differences are noted:
1) There was virtually no sub-soil moisture at the beginning of this season while there was sub-soil moisture beginning in 2011.
2) Input costs (electricity, diesel, fertilizer, etc) are generally much higher respective to 2011.
3) Irrigation capacity has declined in most areas since 2011.
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