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Hailstorm Will Affect Texas Cotton Harvest

In late September, the cotton crop in the Texas High Plains was almost too good to be true. That may sound like an exaggeration, but that’s how it seemed just a month ago. I was attending an Americot field day in Ropesville (outside Lubbock) and Cotton Farming Senior Writer Carroll Smith was in Idalou at a Bayer field day on Sept. 29. We both saw spectacular looking cotton that day, and it seemed that the only thing that could affect this crop’s progress was an unlikely weather event. It hadn’t been a perfect September, but it was pretty close, according to some reports.
There obviously is no way to predict weather patterns, especially in West Texas. But keep in mind that by late September the weatherman was remarkably accurate about High Plains weather trends. The crop I saw on Sept. 29 was about 10 days to two weeks from being defoliated. Everything was setting up beautifully.
Extension specialists in Texas were warning us to control our predictions about the state’s crop. Everyone had repeatedly said that weather events could be a wild card in the final equation. But, at the time, it seemed inevitable that the state would break all records and hit the 9 million bale mark. Today, it appears that it will be a huge crop, but the hailstorms have definitely lowered expectations on yields and perhaps even quality grades.
Again, it is prudent to proceed cautiously right now and not jump to conclusions. Yes, the hailstorms that hit the Lubbock area on Oct. 21 were serious, and some of the hail was baseball-sized. In some counties, the storms took out entire fields, and there could be as much as a 50 percent loss in those affected areas.
However, leave it to Extension cotton specialist Randy Boman to put things in perspective. He says a lot of the affected cotton acreage was already harvested, but the four-plus inches of rain (and hail) didn’t help – especially in those areas where there were open bolls. He also claims that many of the fields hit were irrigated with limited losses.
What does all of this mean? It probably indicates that there was damage but maybe not nearly as widespread as we had earlier thought. True, the storms did begin west of Lubbock in Plains and followed a path about 50 miles long and 15 to 20 miles wide, according to Texas AgriLife specialist Robert Burns. But not everybody’s farm was affected.
This in no way is meant to minimize the damage that was inflicted on areas in the path of the hailstorms. The impact was real and serious for those who lost entire fields.
But there is the possibility that the affected areas weren’t widespread, and that the crop can be salvaged. Let’s hope for this scenario as we move into the final stages of harvest in the High Plains.