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Cotton’s Resilience Continues To Amaze

06-14CFcvrI heard somebody recently say that it was a bit discouraging to see all of this cool, wet weather in May. And, I had to agree with that assessment. When a farmer is trying to plant cotton on time in late April or throughout May, he doesn’t need a semi-wintry environment. But, then, I’ve also been reminded that this weather is almost identical to what we had last year at this time. As folks in the Mid-South will attest, somehow the cotton survived that shaky start in 2013 and picked up steam later in the summer.

Did anybody really think there would be farmers in the region who could deliver four-bale yields after such a difficult start? I certainly wasn’t one of them. But I have also come to the conclusion that the more I observe cotton production in any region of the Belt, the more I’m impressed at how this crop can thrive in difficult conditions.

Then I started recalling how farmers in south Georgia survived monsoon conditions late last summer. Their fields resembled swamps at one point, but they managed to make a crop. I can remember our friend Robbie Harkey in the High Plains of Texas who delivered a four-bale yield in the midst of a drought (thanks to drip irrigation and one timely rain). And, of course, nobody will ever forget Vance and Mandie Smith of Big Spring, Texas, and their 6.9-bale yield – thanks to more drip irrigation and a timely rain.

Every year we hear about a cotton field that withstood difficult conditions, and yet the cotton somehow survived. That’s what always impresses me about today’s cotton crop and how excellent germplasm and management practices can defy all of the odds.

When I hear stories like the ones I heard in 2013, that’s when I become encouraged about what might lie ahead in 2014. Yes, the weather will be severe in some areas, and there will probably be some abandoned dryland acreage. But, conversely, there will be amazing success stories. It is the ability to withstand all kinds of weather adversity that is giving new meaning to the word “stormproof.”

I even remember a hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast several years ago, and the path took it straight north through the Mississippi Delta. The cotton was battered, and some skeptics wrote it off as a complete loss. But that crop survived and delivered a fair yield. It was an eye-opening experience that I will never forget. Just call cotton the “fourth-quarter crop.” Much like a football team staging a comeback in the waning moments of a big game, it always finds a way to deliver.

Tommy Horton