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Water Chased The Crop Dollars In Texas Panhandle

Eric Leach
Crop consultant with Ag Aviation
Muleshoe, Texas

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 2.40.44 PMAs they say, time does fly when you’re having fun. In 1984, I took an internship job scouting fields for Fred Locker’s business, Ag Aviation, in Muleshoe, Texas. Muleshoe is northwest of Lubbock in the Texas Panhandle. I thought I was earning credits for my degree in Entomology from Texas Tech University, but in hindsight I was just putting my toes in the proverbial ocean in which I have been swimming ever since.

Twenty-eight years later, I still work at Ag Aviation and am proud of our work and accomplishments. Fred is my eye in the sky, and I am his eye on the ground. Furthermore, we work closely with all the independent crop consultants in the area, which gives us a unique insight into what is happening across a large geographic agricultural area.

I am proud to be a member of the High Plains Association of Crop Consultants (HPACC), a group united in the pursuit of growing better crops and better profits for our customers. HPACC members are just a phone call away from each other, and we all share ideas and observations. Our membership is a meld of consultants, Extension and industry representatives, primarily from research and development and tech service.

Over the years, I have seen the good times and the bad times that I know are the cyclical nature of agriculture. However, that being said, the impact of the last two years’ drought on my customers and on the aquifer cannot be overstated. As a whole, we got our butts kicked last year. We overplanted, chasing dollar cotton and five dollar corn. Ouch!

This year, we cut way back on corn acreage, dropped populations and figured we could easily keep up with cotton’s water demands. Then came eight dollar corn. If there was grain on the farm, the water chased the dollars, and cotton went to the back burner. This resulting cotton crop is all over the board, ranging from barely good enough to strip to over four bales, depending entirely on water availability.

As I write this, we have finished our last watering and are transitioning into defoliation. As we make decisions about how and when to harvest this year’s crop, we are also planning ahead for next year – how much of which crop can we plant if the drought continues, cover crops, tillage practices, rotations, etc.

I want to thank my customers – y’all make me look good! I’d also like to thank my sons Alex (gifted high school physics teacher and football coach), Maxx (engineer/general brainiac) and my wife Lisa (AKA Dr. Leach – Assistant Superintendent of Lubbock ISD). My family had to learn to cope with long absences during the growing season, and I appreciate their long-suffering and patience.

Click here to ask Eric Leach a question or submit a comment about this month’s Cotton Consultant’s Corner.