It's now official – more than half of the 4.53 million acres of cotton that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency says were planted on the High Plains will not be carried to harvest as the abandonment rate rises to the highest in the history of Plains Cotton Growers.
According to data released by FSA, 2,476,960 acres of dryland cotton were planted and 2,179,071 of that failed due to the relentless drought. And if you're wondering where that 297,889 acres of dryland cotton is, it probably doesn't exist either; insurance claims are still rolling in and those acreages most likely haven't been added to the official total yet.
The FSA data say that 1,919,307 acres of irrigated cotton were planted in 2011, and so far 227,920 acres have failed, leaving potentially 1.69 million to be harvested. However, with producers still in the process of deciding when to terminate irrigation, those numbers could still change.
Historically, abandonment in the PCG 41-county service area averages about 15 percent to 20 percent each year. In 2010, it was just over 4 percent, the lowest in PCG's history. Currently, the abandonment rate stands officially at about 54 percent, the highest since the previous record in 1992 of just more than 53 percent, when rain and hail wiped out much of the High Plains cotton crop.
Current conditions continue to be mixed with most acreage in the southern two-thirds of the PCG service area under severe stress and in fair to poor condition. However, many producers in the northern portion, where water is more readily available, have fair to good crops, although true yield remains to be seen as the crop continues to progress.
Some producers, especially in Gaines, Yoakum and Lubbock counties, are fighting thrips, but they're not the usual species of thrips known to plague cotton fields. These are Kurtomathrips, a highly destructive pest that can quickly defoliate cotton plants, causing damage similar to that of spider mites. According to Dr. David Kerns and Dr. Patrick Porter in the August 9 edition of FOCUS on South Plains Agriculture (found at http://lubbock.tamu.edu/focus/), the damage caused to those leaves could compromise boll size and yield.
With most fields approaching or at the cut-out stage, the High Plains crop, on average, is about 2 to 3 weeks ahead and harvesting could begin in some areas as early as mid-September. "We've had a few areas that have received some moisture over the past week or two, but it's been spotty, for the most part," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "At this point, most of the yield has been set on these plants."
The FSA data is available online on their public website and is updated monthly. To access that data, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=newsroom&subject=landing&topic=foi-er-fri-cad.