“My cotton crop is about average – not great and not bad,” Cox said Aug. 1. “We were behind on heat units due to the cool spring but lately we’ve had too many heat units resulting in crop stress.”

Cox planted the crop in early to mid March. The hotter July weather advanced Cox’s crop from seven to 10 days behind in heat units down to about three. The heat crop stress level in late July alternated between stress Level One (crop temperature between 82.4 degrees and 86 degrees) to Level Two (higher than 86 degrees).

Cox estimated the potential yield at four to five bales per acre. Crop yields have consistently increased over the last five to seven years.

“The high yields are probably tied to the varieties, heavy Pix (plant growth regulator) and fertilizer use, and improved crop management,” Cox said.

Cox will gin the crop at Modern Ginning Company in Blythe.  

Cox’s crop was beginning to cut out. The fertilizers CAN-17 and UN-32 were applied at 10 gallons each per acre.

Due to the recent heat stress, Cox shortened the five to six day flood irrigation schedule by one day, applying four inches of water per shot.

Pest pressure this year includes the always problematic whitefly in this low desert area. Cox had just started the second spray. A third spray could be necessary. Spider mites have also been heavy.

Cox expects to harvest from before Thanksgiving through late December. Cox is a second-generation farmer. His father Richard Cox started the farm in 1985.

Higher cotton prices spurred Bowles Farming Company in Los Banos (Merced County) to increase acreage from 3,000 acres to 5,000 acres this year. Varieties include about 4,000 acres in Upland Acala - mostly PhytoGen 725 RF. The 1,000 acres of long staple cotton is a mix of Pima (PhytoGen 805RF) and Hazera 195.

The company also grows processing tomatoes, alfalfa, wheat, melons, and fresh market tomatoes.

“Our cotton crop is looking a lot better now,” said Cannon Michael, the company’s vice president. “We had a long protracted spring of cool weather that was never cool enough to hurt the crop but lacked enough heat units to jumpstart it.”

“With the July heat, the crop is looking better than I would have thought. It’s improving and picking up a lot of blooms. We have the opportunity to make a good crop.”

Michael estimates yields near the farm’s five-year average of 3.25 to 3.5 bales per acre for Acala and 2.75 to 3 bales for Pima. The harvest window could be delayed seven to 10 days.

Michael, a sixth-generation California farmer said, “2011 should be a decent season. It likely will not be a record-breaking crop but I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised by it.”