Texas Strategy: Survive The Drought

By Tommy Horton

A year ago we were talking about how Texas cotton producers were trying to survive a drought that had to be seen to be appreciated. It’s hard to know how difficult this weather event was unless you lived in the state and saw it firsthand. How bad was it? How about a reduced cotton crop that was somewhere around 3.5 million bales? This followed on the heels of a 2010 crop that totalled 7.8 million bales. In many areas, the cotton plants simply never had a chance to emerge.

Some observers likened the 2011 crop season in Texas to the Dust Bowl days in the 1930s and 1940s. It conjured up gloomy scenarios from the past.

We know it’s painful for Texas producers to think too much about 2011, so we won’t dwell on it. It is only mentioned to offer perspective on the 2012 season, which had more rainfall but not enough to say that the drought had officially ended.

Viewed from any angle, it is remarkable the kind of comeback that occurred in Texas this year. Most USDA estimates peg the 2012 Texas crop at 6.1 million bales. In areas across the state, the cotton was in much better shape if rains occurred at the right time, or if water was available for irrigated acreage.

In this month’s cover story on pages 8 and 9, we visited with a Texas High Plains producer who found a way to recover from 2011. David Carter of Levelland (30 miles west of Lubbock) implemented a strategy that dealt with limited water and soil variability on his 3,400 cotton acres. Although the final yield statistics haven’t been compiled yet, Carter knows that he’ll have more to show for his efforts than he did in 2011.

After reading this story, you may come away with the same impression I had after spending time talking to David. He didn’t let the disaster of 2011 slow him down in his quest to bounce back in 2012. He never veered from his goal of matching the right seed variety with a particular field. And, he continued to rotate his center pivot irrigation rigs and used various conservation strategies to maximize water use.

Carter’s long-time consultant Darrell Kitten probably had the best comment when asked to talk about David’s ability to deliver a crop in less-than-perfect conditions. He said, “When hardship comes along, sometimes it can change a person’s entire personality. David is always on an even keel. There aren’t any peaks and valleys.”

I don’t think a farmer could receive a better compliment. Don’t let the painful memories of 2011 slow you down. Just get ready for the next crop season and know that better days are ahead.

Those are words of advice that all of us could use.

If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to: thorton@onegrower.com.

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