What is in this article?:
- Weather, to no one’s surprise, topped the list of 2011 concerns for cotton consultants and their clients.
- Weather issues included the gamut from record-setting drought, unrelenting heat, devastating floods, humidity and hail stones as big as lemons.
Conditions may have been even worse in the Texas High Plains, said Bob Glodt, Agri-Search, Inc., in Plainview. He rolled off a bevy of adverbs to describe just how bad it was. “It was unbelievably, unprecedentedly, unrelentingly hot and dry,” he said.
Rainfall for planting was all but non-existent, and that during a time when cotton needs about 6 inches of moisture to get up and off to a decent start, he said. “A lot of farmers applied more than 3 inches of irrigation water just to get the crop up and to the two-leaf stage.
“By June, or even in late May, the dryland crop had failed and irrigated cotton was struggling to keep up. But we had no mosquitoes.”
And wind was constant. “I’ve never seen windy conditions to match 2011,” Glodt said. “We often had 45 mile-per-hour winds blowing all day. The evapotranspiration level was phenomenal. It was impossible to keep up.”
Glodt said farmers planted 4.53 million acres in the 41-county High Plains area. Of that, 2.48 was dryland cotton. Some 2.18 million acres of that dryland production failed. “That’s 87 percent of the dryland crop,” Glodt said.
Of the 1.92 million irrigated acres planted, 23,000 failed. Much more produced less than typical yields.
Glodt said corn farmers abandoned a high percentage of acres. Some water resources were converted to cotton.
He said High Plains cotton farmers also dealt with a new insect pest, Kurtomathrips, a thrips that has been detected before in Texas and Arizona but not in the High Plains for a long time. The pest seemed to concentrate on the most severely drought-damaged cotton so growers may have assumed injury came from drought.
Control, when the pest is identified, is not particularly difficult, he said.
Glodt said the unprecedented drought of 2011 graphically showed the advantages of efficient irrigation. “Efficiency paid dividends last year,” he said.
Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA) systems, with 80 percent efficiency, proved far superior to broadcast irrigation systems, at only 50 percent efficiency. On a field with 16-acre feet of water applied, the crop gets only 8 inches from the broadcast system. LEPA provides 12.8 inches.
Water use efficiency will become even more important with new water restrictions in the Underground Water District No. 1. The new rules will allow 16-acre inches of water—where available—for contiguous acres.
“Wells will have to be metered or growers will have to use some other accurate mans of correlation (energy uses, for instance) to monitor water.
“These restrictions will be a challenge to adapt to,” he said. “But a lot of farmers have not been using ET demand to manage irrigation efficiently. And some have gotten away from LEPA and switched to broadcast irrigation, and I don’t understand why.”