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New Season Needs A Strong Start

Tommy Horton

By Tommy Horton, Editor

Now that planting season is upon us, the question becomes how can this year’s cotton crop get started in the best possible way? Most farmers and Extension specialists will tell you it’s all about timing and making sure optimum conditions exist for that tiny seed in the ground. It’s such a simple scenario, and yet so crucial for the success of the crop.

Sometimes I like to think of planting season as another version of the Kentucky Derby, which ironically takes place on the first Saturday in May at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Starting the race fast is so crucial for the horse that eventually wins. And, likewise, the young seedling needs to emerge from the soil with plenty of vigor and growth potential after planting.

We have discussed this topic before, but to say that there is pressure on a producer during planting season is an understatement. When a farmer talks about “front-end investment,” he knows what he’s talking about. Given the money that a producer spends on the crop before it is ever planted can make anybody anxious.

The cotton production season is never perfect. Conditions will make a crop late at planting time. Unforeseen weather can also delay the crop when it can ill afford such an obstacle. And, since growing cotton can be more of an art form than exact science, there are exceptions to the rule. How many times has a producer delivered a spectacular crop that was planted late? On occasion, it happens, but chances are that a perfect late summer and fall were necessary to make the dream come true.

So, we can’t emphasize enough how important the early days of the crop season are. And that’s why you’ll want to read our cover story on pages 8 and 9. We have talked to Texas High Plains producer Doug Hlavaty and Texas AgriLife Extension cotton specialist Gaylon Morgan, and they have shared interesting perspectives about early season management. They also discuss the challenges of cotton production in Texas in the current price environment.

And, speaking of the Lone Star State, it is often feast or famine there. Beneficial winter rainfall has helped break the three-year drought. But, too much of a good thing can be bad. For example, it has rained so much in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend this year that many cotton acres won’t be planted.

Nobody said it was easy being a cotton farmer. And that’s why this might be a good time for Mother Nature to help out on the weather. Our friends in Texas need a break.