Cotton Comes Through After All

Replanting is less than expected and only bugs and heat threaten. Compiled by staff

Published on: May 31, 2005

After battling continual spurts of rain and cool weather for most of the spring, some Calcot growers and ginners say they are surprised the cotton crop looks as good as it does. Calcot is a California and Arizona cotton marketing cooperative.

"It’s better than I thought it might be…it’s just surprising that it looks as healthy as it does right now," says Fred Cook. Cook is manager of Westside Farmers Co-op Gin in San Joaquin. Farmers in his area did some replanting due to a three-inch torrent of rain that fell the third week of May.

The crop is in the ground finally, but late just about everywhere in California and in much of Arizona. In the Hanford area, cotton is small and possibly up to one month behind, says County Line Gin Manger Mark Boyes. He says some cotton in his area is starting to square up and fortunately, the cool weather has made bug-pressure on the light side. But higher temperatures, he cautions, can change that quickly.

Hotter weather has helped perk up viable plants, but also culled seedlings that were too far-gone from disease. Hotter temperatures if they happen too quickly could likely thin some stands further. But in general, most plant populations look at least adequate.

The weekly publication MiteFax reports Pete Goodell, extension IPM specialist was finding high counts of lygus in blooming tarweed in the hills along I-5. He swept at stops from the Three Rocks area to Jane Avenue and in northern Kern County.

"The yellowing tarweed was loaded with lygus," Goodell told the publication. "Populations included a lot of offspring, and in about 2 weeks they will be ready to move on." "I'm not trying to spread fear," he adds. "But we do need to keep in mind that this much rain this late in the spring isn't something that's common. If you're going to sweep right now to gauge what's out there, start in places with yellow flowers."

At the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield grower Colby Fry says his cotton is about two to three weeks behind schedule. He’s hoping it will catch up when temperatures warm up. Weather forecasts point to temperatures in the upper 90s for the weekend of May 21 in his area and could reach 100 degrees in the following week.

"We’re a month behind, if not longer...it’s amazing it looks as good as it does for all the rain we’ve had," says Visalia grower Keith Bettencourt.

Ron Vargas, Madera County extension farm advisor told MiteFax, "Stands [in his area] have struggled, but there hasn't been as much replanting as I expected. Cotton that was planted a little later and was up when the rain came looks pretty good. Right now a lot of herbicide work is going on. With all the rain, we've got tremendous weed pressure, mainly nutsedge and nightshade."

California’s state extension cotton specialist Bob Hutmacher says, "The heat continues to pick away at plants weakened by seedling disease. I saw this during the first half of the week in checking cotton trials and some other stops, mainly in Fresno, Merced and Madera Counties.

"Any of the marginal plants that are left will probably be lost as we hit hotter weather this weekend and into early next week. Whatever is left after that will be our survivors…this thinning process isn't finished."

In Arizona, crop progress is varied. Some areas have cotton squaring while others have cotton just poking out of the ground, says Calcot grower representative Paul Bush. On average across the state, he estimates Arizona cotton to be about one week behind schedule.

Bush says the high temperatures (above 100 degrees) probably will not cause any problems for cotton growers, except possibly in the Safford area where some replanting has taken place. The swing in temperatures for newly emerged seedlings can present some difficulties, he says.

In the Imperial Valley of California, Bush says the cotton crop is off to an average start and ginners are predicting an average yield.