Ten years ago, Cotton Farming editor, Tommy Horton, wrote an article for the magazine titled “Irrigated Cotton: Insurance For The Future?” At the time, prices were depressed and profit margins were thin, so producers were considering all angles to help boost their bottom lines.
“Irrigation isn’t a cure for every ill that afflicts a cotton farming operation, but, in a great many cases, it certainly can help,” Horton says.
In the summer of 2001, Louisiana was in the midst of a three-year drought. Horton points out in the article that irrigation “rescued crop production in many of the fertile areas of northeast and northwest Louisiana that were affected by lack of rainfall in the past three years.”
John Barnett, the state’s Extension cotton specialist at the time, says that after seeing how irrigation helped save cotton in north Louisiana, producers were beginning to drill more wells and incorporate irrigation into more cotton operations in other areas of the state.
Today, 10 years later, many cotton producers across the Belt have installed irrigation systems of one type or another. Consequently, when we asked if farmers are considering increasing their irrigation capacity on cotton acres in 2011, 52 percent replied “No” probably because those acres are already irrigated, utilizing one of the many systems available.
Following is a sampling of the comments that we received from Cotton Farming’s Web Poll respondents:
• “We are switching from sprinkler and flood irrigation to drip irrigation.”
• “I would dearly love to increase my irrigation, but I’ve drilled three dry holes so far.”
• “I’m too old to invest in irrigation. I'm also in an area that normally has had plenty of rainfall. This has not been the case for the past three years, but I am looking at the end of my farming career in a couple of years.”
• “With the upcoming water restrictions in West Texas, I will only be pumping less.”
• “We are 100 percent irrigated and have been since 2002. Production expenses were the same for us dry or irrigated. The only difference is that irrigated land always made a crop. The bank agreed that for us to stay in business, we had to do it. With extra production, it paid off quickly, and we never looked back. ”
• “I likely won’t have any dryland cotton due to no rain since October of 2010. I plan to have 100 acres of irrigated cotton that I took out of grass seed production as needed to rotate to clean it up. I have no subsoil moisture to a six-foot depth.
• “You can’t install irrigation on leased land. You install irrigation this year, and your neighbor will be farming the land next year!”
• “I see irrigation as the key to sustaining profitability where I farm as the expense of raising a crop is so high. In most years when we have lower cotton prices, the risk of farming dryland acres is not worth taking.”
• “I will keep increasing my irrigated acres on a yearly basis. Cotton handles dry conditions much better than grains, so I will continue to put my marbles on cotton until I achieve 100 percent irrigation.”
In this month’s Web Poll, Cotton Farming is asking its readers what type of logistical challenges they may be facing as they “get back into cotton” – after having switched over to grains for a while – or even if they are just planning to increase their cotton acres this year.
Cast your vote and share your comments at www.cottonfarming.com. The results of the April poll, along with reader remarks, will be reported in the June issue of Cotton Farming.
Web Poll Results
In February, we asked: Considering the dry conditions that have plagued many areas of the Belt for the past few years, are you considering increasing the irrigation capacity on your cotton acres in 2011?
Yes – 32 %
No – 52 %
It Depends – 16%
April Web Poll Question
If you are “getting back into cotton” or increasing the cotton acres on your farm, what is your greatest logistical challenge? Explain your choice and how you plan to overcome it in the “Comments” section.
(3) Gin infrastructure
(4) Soil profile
Register your vote at www.cottonfarming.com.
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