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Rain, Rain, Come and Stay?

By Jayci Cave

Cotton RainHow much will it rain this year? This question is always on a farmer’s mind when spring time rolls around. Dozens of decisions┬ámust be made that revolve around this one simple question and each farmer will hope and pray they will have favorable weather to produce their crop for the year. In recent years, widespread drought has caused farmers to deal with the challenge of producing a crop with limited water. This year, however, producers are facing a much different situation.

May 2015 was one for the record books as both Texas and Oklahoma set records for the all-time wettest month, according to the Office of the State Climatologist at Texas A&M University. On average, Texas received 8.81 inches of rainfall in May, breaking the previous record of 6.66 inches in June 2004. Oklahoma also broke its record of 10.75 inches of rain in a single month by receiving, on an average of 14.40 inches in May. Lubbock, Texas, received 12.12 inches of rainfall in May, just shy of the record of 12.69 inches in May 1941. In Corpus Christi, Texas, 14.32 inches of rain was reported in the month of May, which greatly surpassed the previous record of 10.44 inches in 1941.

This substantial rainfall in May made it difficult for producers to get into the wet fields to plant their crops, and this forced them to work against the clock to get the cotton in the ground before the crop insurance planting deadlines. According to USDA, only 46 percent of the intended cotton acreage had been planted as of May 31, 2015, compared to the five-year average of 70 percent.

USDA released its 2015 planted acreage report on June 30, 2015. According to the report, planted acreage for the United States cotton crop was estimated at 9 million acres, down 18 percent from 2014 and the lowest since 1983. The Texas crop was estimated at 5.2 million acres, down significantly from 6.2 million acres last year. Oklahoma saw a slight increase from last year with an estimated 250,000 acres. Kansas acreage was estimated at 29,000, a slight decrease from 31,000 in 2014.

The Texas crop accounts for a large portion of the U.S. crop and similarly, a large portion of the decrease. Cris Gwinn, PCCA South Texas Division Manager, said South Texas acreage was originally projected down because of price. However, all of the rain caused late planting and a significant decrease in cotton acreage.

“Late planting will cause a later than average harvest,” Gwinn said. “Usually, South Texas cotton is the first in the U.S. and world to come off resulting in more of a premium price, but the late harvest will cut into that opportunity. Yields will be lower as cotton plants in some cases have been stunted with the lack of sunshine. The producers are doing what they do best, adapting and dealing the best they can,” Gwinn added.

Tanner Streety, PCCA Marketing Communications Area Manager, said he has seen a variety of weather conditions in West Texas this year that have affected the crop.

“We have had flooding, wind and hail, but the most important thing is that we have sub-soil moisture,” Streety said. “Farmers are known for making something great out of nothing. We have been blessed with some good rains, and the acres that have survived the weather look extremely promising.”

PCCA Marketing Communications Area Manager, Matt Monroe, agreedand said this year has potential to be one of the better ones if Oklahoma farmers can get a few timely rains and the necessary heat units in July and August.

“I feel like the rains in Oklahoma have made this crop a little late,” Monroe said, “but they have also provided the best moisture for a crop since 2010. Because of this great start, producers are excited and feel like they have a crop they can invest in. Hopefully this drought is a thing of the past.”

This time last year, only 10.45 percent of the state of Texas was drought free with 70.95 percent of the state in moderate to exceptional drought conditions, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. Texas was 93.20 percent drought free with only .29 percent in moderate drought as of June 18, 2015. Oklahoma also has seen significant drought improvement this spring. Last year 79.34 percent of the state was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions. During March of this year, 70.50 percent of Oklahoma was stillin the moderate to exceptional drought range. However, with the recent rainfall 98.28 percent of Oklahoma is drought free. Kansas followed the same pattern this year as 86.45 percent of the state is drought free. Only 3.81 percent of the state is in moderate drought conditions compared to 87.09 percent in moderate to exceptional drought in June 2014. On the other hand, New Mexico still has 50.79 percent of the state experiencing some drought conditions.

With this much rain, Streety said there was a possibility that controlling weeds could continue to be an issue for farmers.

“I was concerned that with all of the moisture we received we would have another year of weed problems,” Streety said, “but from what I have seen, farmers have done a great job controlling them. However, with the recent heat the weeds have become more of an issue. Even though the cotton acreage is down, I have no doubt that we can get great yields with the help of a few timely rains.”

Taylor Hurst, PCCA Marketing Communications Area Manager, said West Texas producers and gin managers agree this is the best start they have had in awhile. Even with the recent rain and flooding in areas, the mood is still very positive.

“Everyone agrees that it is much better to be too wet than dry,” Hurst said. “I have even had one gin manager mention this is the first year in a long while he will actually have dryland cotton to gin. As long as the rest of the summer and fall will deal us some favorable weather, I believe this will be a really good year for PCCA and our members.”