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Improved Soil Moisture for Most Texas Cotton Fields

By Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Most cotton fields in southern and eastern portions of Texas are faring well, and recent rains have improved soil moisture indexes in portions of West Texas and the Panhandle in time for planting, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist, College Station.

Morgan said he expects cotton acreage to be slightly lower than 2014, but nearly double 2015 acres planted in South and East Texas. Spring 2015 was extremely wet and prevented much of the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend from being planted that year.

“The 2016 crop has had its challenges with excessive rain, but nothing compared to the prolonged wet weather observed in 2015,” he said.

The bulk of Texas’ cotton planting in West Texas and the Rolling Plains will get underway shortly, with adequate soil moisture across most regions. Rain events in West Texas and the Rolling Plains over the previous weeks improved the moisture index in time for planting, but Morgan said another timely rain in mid-to-late May would help establish good cotton stands.

On the other hand, recent rains in the northern and southern Blacklands have been detrimental to emerging cotton crops. Morgan said some crop land there would need replanting, while others have not been planted due to inaccessible fields. The planting window in those areas is around May 31, he said.

“We are hoping to dry out enough to bring the cotton acres up to about 140,000 for the Blacklands region,” he said.

Based on the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation’s program estimates, cotton producers in the South and East Texas zones will plant around 800,000 acres this year. Approximately 479,000 acres of cotton was planted in the South and East Texas zones during 2015, down from approximately 889,682 acres in 2014.

By comparison, producers in West Texas planted 4.6 million acres of cotton in 2015 and are expected to be comparable for 2016, with some regions increasing slightly and other regions dropping slightly depending on concerns for input costs, sugarcane aphid and irrigation capacity.

Danielle Sekula-Ortiz, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management agent in Weslaco, said cotton planted in the Lower Rio Grande Valley – where cotton typically is planted earliest – is up and squaring nicely, with some older fields showing blooms.

Sekula-Ortiz said the crops appear to be maturing quickly because of warm temperatures and are far ahead of 2015, when plantings were delayed by rains. She said producers were seeing an increase in aphid and fleahopper populations and have begun treating fields to address potential pest problems.

“Everything is looking really good,” she said. “A good rain in the next two weeks would be perfect.”

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