Factors Affecting Texas Yield Bump


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Recap: Factors Affecting
Texas Yield Bump


Donald Kitten
Kitten Consulting Service
Lubbock, Texas

In the mid-1980s, I visited a high production region of the United States to see what three-bale cotton looked like at harvest. At the time, good cotton yields in the Texas High Plains were in the two-bales-per-acre range. Times have changed.

Now, in good years, our producers are making yields I would not have thought possible back then. Three-bale yields are not so uncommon these days, and some good irrigated fields top four bales per acre. This is a testament to the innovativeness of our producers, superior seed genetics and technology and more efficient irrigation systems. Choosing a variety that is the best fit for a given farm to maximize yields can be one of the most important decisions a producer makes.

Every year presents production challenges, and 2009 offered up a big one from the get-go. With almost no winter and spring moisture, we entered the planting season very dry. Some of the higher production fields in this region are equipped with subsurface drip irrigation, and these systems were unable to supply planting moisture up to the seedbed from the 10- to 12-inch depth where the drip tape is located. Eventually, as dry conditions persisted and the optimal planting window was closing, some growers chose to “bust down” to the drip moisture and were successful in getting an adequate stand. Pivot-irrigated fields for the most part were okay, but quite a few dryland acres were either failed or emerged extremely late once decent rainfall finally came.

Plant bug pressure was light or nonexistent due to reduced weed hosts because of the early dry conditions. Some isolated non-Bollgard irrigated fields required a bollworm treatment, but, thankfully, insect pressure was light overall. Other than the drought, high winds and hail, things went pretty smoothly!

Fortunately, we had above average heat unit accumulation to bring along a later than normal crop. Prior to the start of harvest, fields with adequate irrigation are showing excellent yield potential. Although overall dryland yields will be well below average, irrigated yields should be very good with some fields once again yielding in excess of four bales per acre. As for the near future, I don’t think I will have to travel far to see what five-bale cotton looks like!



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