Recently, I made a quick trip to Lubbock, Texas, for a Water/Weed Summit sponsored by Monsanto and Deltapine, and one image remains etched in my memory during a three-day visit. Even though this is the middle of winter, you can tell that the drought conditions still persist in this region. Sure, there have been some sporadic rainfall events in the past couple of months and even some snow. But subsoil moisture levels still need more rain before the 2013 cotton crop can be planted.
Even though this is early February, you can look at the Lubbock area from an airplane or up close from the highway and sense that the drought is still prevalent in this region.
It is ironic that the two focal points of this meeting were water and weed resistance. A crowd of more than 125 attended at the Overton Hotel, and I was impressed with the attitude of those farmers there. Not only were they optimistic about receiving enough rainfall to help with subsoil moisture, but they reflected a proactive attitude about weed resistance and other topics confronting them this year.
There wasn’t any gloom and doom. Nobody was overly complaining about the situation. Instead, most farmers there were talking about strategies that would be a good fit in this kind of environment. In other words, they were trying to find ways to plant the right variety, use the best precision ag technique and maximize water efficiency. It was a classic example of how Texas farmers might be the most resolute and focused in the country. Memories of the 2011 drought are still fresh, and everyone knows that 2012 was only slightly better. But that hasn’t slowed down Texas farmers. They keep trying to make the best of the situation.
Even when a National Weather Service official spoke to the group about future weather trends for Texas, it didn’t seem to faze the audience. These farmers knew what was about to be told to them. An outsider might have gotten the impression that High Plains cotton farmers are banking on the weather experts being wrong on their forecasts. After all, the El Nino system didn’t amount to much in the past six months. Maybe some of these weather systems will dip into West Texas and deliver much needed rainfall before planting begins.
When it comes to weather predictions, expect the unexpected. That’s what farmers in Texas are hoping for this spring and summer.
In retrospect, it’s worth noting that even with the conditions of 2012, gins in the state processed more than 5 million bales. With any kind of improvement in precipitation, that number will increase. We have our fingers crossed.