Texas and Southwest farmers had hoped to rebound in 2012 with a return to good moisture for better crops and a rebuilding of cowherds. It just didn't happen. Cotton, cattle, or corn—the drought and heat in 2012 have made an awful obstacle to recovery.
Randall Conner, executive director of the Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association, Winters, Texas, says boll counts can be made after Sept. 15, and many cotton growers then will face the tough decision of whether to take the crop on to harvest—or just shred the fields.
For cotton that will only make one-fourth to one-third of a bale per acre, it's tough to justify a harvest aid to defoliate and desiccate the cotton, he notes. But if growers with extremely mediocre cotton wait for a killing frost to drop the leaves on cotton plants for harvest, that could be mid-November or even December—in some years on the Rolling Plains.
Since many cotton growers also grow wheat, and wheat prices have been so strong, Conner says he feels many producers who grow both crops won't want to delay seeding wheat this fall just to wait on a freeze to defoliate cotton. So shredding may make economic sense for some—as distasteful as it may be.
"I know people don't want to shred cotton—but for some—that may be the best case," he laments.
The Southern Rolling Plains region planted 300,000 acres of cotton this year, hoping to bounce back from the 2011 historic drought disaster. But Conner expects that acreage will only produce about 130,000 to 150,000 bales of cotton.
"It's a mixed bag," Conner says. "We have cotton from fair to pathetic."