Welcome to the May 5, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.
High Plains Pre-Planting Conditions
With planting season right around the corner, everyone is on the same page.
It needs to rain.
Lubbock County and surrounding areas received a much-needed drink the evening of May 2 and early morning May 3. “We thank God for that, but Levelland only registered about 0.26 inches,” said Kerry Siders, Integrated Pest Management extension agent for Cochran, Hockley and Lamb Counties. “We need some more.”
The Lord must have been listening. Some parts of Lubbock and Lynn Counties have received 1 inch to 1.89 inches of rain in the last 48 hours. Levelland received an additional 0.41 inches last night, according to Siders who is the National Weather Service observer for Levelland.
While we could always use more timely planting rains, producers saw a morale boost after last week’s tease of wet weather that never happened.
“Looking at regional moisture from last night (May 2), it looks like Gaines County might have been a big winner with some areas that received three-quarters to 1 inch of rain,” Siders added. “And we had a good amount of rain over a large area, but some areas still didn’t see much precipitation. We’re still very much in drought.”
Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service has identified a prime target date range of May 15 to May 20 to start evaluating moisture, soil temps and air temperature for planting. The nighttime temperatures begin to level out around that time above 60 degrees, so the risk of chilling injury is lessened.
“With the size of equipment today, I think most of these producers can get across the majority of their acres in a timely fashion,” Siders said. “I know we’re always concerned about getting the crop in early so we don’t get caught with cold weather in October, but that won’t matter if we can’t get a stand up. It wouldn’t hurt to wait a little bit and see if we can catch a little more rain before planting.”
According to Siders, it wasn’t unheard of for people 25 years ago to say that rain supplements irrigation. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth today. It’s the opposite. Irrigation can’t keep up anymore. We must have rainfall.”
Looking at the forecast, Siders believes we’re “over the hump” on low soil temperatures. While occasionally below 55 degrees, soil temps are trending upward.
“I have been concerned about some of the colder temperatures and cold fronts that have blown in earlier this month, but it looks to be levelling off.”
What’s the Plan?
Siders said he’s cautiously optimistic about this crop year.
“I’ve yet to see much benefit from this supposed El Nino pattern, but we may see it kick in.”
Producers feel they’re in the same mode as they were a year ago today — almost a repeat of last year. “And until we see this drought broken with sufficient rainfall, we’re probably going to hold our cards tight to the chest this year before we pull the trigger.”
Siders is hopeful that we’ll see more rain over the next 10 to 14 days and believes that most producers are patiently waiting it out as well.
“We haven’t received a 40-inch rainfall season since 2004 and it’s been a while since we’ve seen more than 20 inches. However, at this point, we’d all be more than happy with our yearly average of 17 in this area.”
In terms of plans, producers usually have two or three, Siders added. A plan for several scenarios makes a smart producer since every year different circumstances are experienced.
“That’s the nature of this business we’re in,” he said. “And thank God, we’ve got the best farmers in the world making these decisions.”
Jacob Riley, chief meteorologist for KLBK-TV, told the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee that this year will be better than last year. “But we probably won’t have any drought-busting rains.”
Over the next six to 10 days, most of the region has a slightly above-average chance for precipitation, while the eight to 14 day forecast (May 11-17) shows a 50% chance of above-average precipitation.
“Unfortunately, this could come with hail, high winds and possibly severe storms,” Riley added.
Overall things are looking to get a little bit more active through May as we head into the weekend of May 13 in terms of moisture.
Overall, temperatures will remain pretty mild compared to average over the summer season, Riley added. This will not be the hottest summer on record for the South Plains region or the state.
“We will see bouts of monsoon moisture increase over the next several months, resulting in average precipitation through the growing season,” he said. “Overall, drought conditions will likely slightly improve now through late summer.”
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