COTTON NEWS from Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. – April 27, 2018
4517 West Loop 289 Lubbock, Texas 79414 806-792-4904
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CRITICAL TEXAS DROUGHT FORECAST MAY
ALTER SUMMER CROP PLANTING DECISIONS
Friday, April 20, 2018, By Kay Ledbetter, AgriLife TODAY
The Texas High Plains is under extreme drought and if current
conditions continue, producers, need to make important decisions for summer
crops, said Dr. Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
agronomist in Amarillo.
“The current U.S. Drought Monitor is reporting we are in Stage 4
drought,” Bell said. “With that, many producers are having to make
critical management considerations as they are approaching summer planting
Fortunately, the region’s extended precipitation forecast is
improving, she said. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction
Center is now predicting the region will have equal changes of above or
below average precipitation.
“What does that mean for a producer? Well hopefully it will not be as
dry as previously predicted, but we still do not have a positive
forecast,” Bell said. “Unfortunately, temperatures are still projected to
be above average, and because temperatures are a key driver in crop water
use, we are still at risk for crop stress under dryland and limited
With summer planting, it is important to know how much moisture is in
the soil profile, “because that is our bucket,” Bell said. “With that,
it’s also important to know what crops will be planted and what is their
rooting depth. That will help us determine how much subsoil moisture we
have and how far it will carry a crop through the growing season,
especially if we don’t receive timely moisture.”
Many producers are having to pre-irrigate, so they can have sufficient
moisture in the seed zone to germinate summer crops, she said. Under
dryland situations, producers are having to decide if they are going to
“Our current forecast is actually calling for precipitation. If we do
get rain, many producers are evaluating how soon they will plant dryland
acreage,” Bell said. “But even with a precipitation event, it will depend
on the amount of rain we receive and the rate it falls to determine the
effectiveness of the precipitation event. One rain is not going to break
the drought situation we are in.”
The Texas High Plains is dependent on winter precipitation in the form
of snowfall to build up soil moisture during the fallow period, she said.
Across the region, negligible snow fell this winter and rainfall has been
anywhere from less than a tenth of an inch to about 3/10s of an inch for
the entire winter.
“On the bright side, we are very fortunate because we had very good
early fall precipitation, so in many areas, we still have good subsoil
moisture,” Bell said.
She estimated under no-till and especially under good residue, soil
moisture may be 4-6 inches deep; under cultivated or tilled ground,
subsoil moisture may be 8-10 inches.
“It is important for producers to evaluate the depth to moisture
before they begin to pre-irrigate,” Bell said. “Soil moisture sensors are
an invaluable tool not only for scheduling in-season irrigation but also
determining how much pre-irrigation is needed.”
That subsoil moisture also allows dryland producers to gauge
precipitation in the forecast to determine if it will give them enough
moisture to plant on, she said.
“Even if we receive up to a half inch, that’s probably not going to be
enough, because roots will not grow through the dry soil to reach the wetter
The primary crops grown in this region under irrigation are corn and
cotton, she said. As producers evaluate the forecast and probability of
precipitation, many are opting to split irrigated acreage between corn and
cotton so they will have sufficient water to meet critical crop water
demands throughout the summer.
“For crop insurance purposes, corn needs to be planted on or before
June 5 for counties in the Texas High Plains, but planting later in June
shifts the critical water demand period of tasseling out of some of the
hotter periods of summer,” Bell said.
“Often we will see greater kernel set and sometimes benefits by
planting that crop even later in the summer. So, producers have to
evaluate how they manage their insurance programs with regards to their
For grain sorghum under both irrigated and dryland production systems,
producers do have flexibility with planting dates, she said.
“We do find producers are able to make a very good sorghum crop, even
planting into late June. That does provide a little bit a flexibility as
they watch the weather,” she said. “They can wait and plant the crop if we
receive timely rains. Also, planting later will move that critical growth
stage of growing-point differentiation and flowering later into the season
when we are not as hot. Sorghum does have a little more flexibility than
When it comes to cotton across the High Plains, it is important for
producers to get the crop planted in May because “we are trying to grow a
perennial crop in a very short annual environment,” Bell said. “In order
to accumulate sufficient growing degree days or heat units to mature that
crop and optimize production – not just yield but also quality – we really
need to get that crop off and running in May and preferably early to
mid-May if conditions are favorable.” (PCG EDITOR’S NOTE: The earliest
final plant date for Upland cotton in the PCG service area is May 31.)
Another challenge producers may have, especially under dryland
conditions, is herbicides, she said. In some years, sufficient
precipitation is not received to activate some of the residual preplant
“Preplant herbicides are very important because we want to minimize
competition with our primary crop,” Bell said. “We want to start the
season weed free. Weeds are using the water we need for the crop, so they must
All these decisions can be tricky because producers often have made
their seed selection months ago, she said. So moving into a dry period
there might be some limitations on the decisions a producer can make.
“Irrigation helps stabilize production and minimizes the risk we
encounter under dryland,” Bell said. “But across much of the High Plains,
well capacities are no longer sufficient to meet crop water demands to
optimize economical production. And often our precipitation, while aiding
crop water demand throughout the season, doesn’t come at the most ideal
She said the High Plains often receives non-beneficial precipitation.
Rain events may only measure a few hundredths of an inch or 2-3 inches may
fall in a very short time and a large percentage of this runs off. Neither
event benefits crop production.
“Really, what we want to see are those slow, steady rains that come
over the course of several days and soak in, wet up that profile, and
really provide soil moisture.”
Traditionally the best rains in this region fall in May and June, and
that offers hope for the coming crop season, in spite of the current
drought, Bell said.
Upcoming Auxin-Specific Herbicide Trainings
Seed Cotton Program Resource Page
Available at plainscotton.org
WATER LEVEL MEASUREMENTS INDICATE AVERAGE DECREASE
OF -0.16 OF A FOOT WITHIN HPWD SERVICE AREA IN 2017-2018
Friday, April 13, 2018, From High Plains Water District
An average change of -0.16 of a foot was noted in the groundwater
levels of the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer from 2017 to
2018 within the 16-county High Plains Underground Water Conservation
District (HPWD) service area.
The 10-year District average change (2008-2018) is -8.76 feet while
the five-year district average change (2013-2018) is -2.07 feet. The
average saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer within the District is
about 56 feet (2017-2018).
HPWD staff shared this information with the District’s five-member
Board of Directors during their April 10 regular monthly meeting.
In early 2018, HPWD field personnel made annual water level
measurements in a network of 1,353 privately-owned water wells completed
into the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifers. In addition,
water level measurements were also made in 33 Dockum Aquifer wells.
Since the 2017 measurements, there are nine counties with an average
increase in water levels and seven counties with an average decrease.
Field Technician Supervisor Keith Whitworth shared statistics for the
1,250 observation wells with publishable measurements. He noted that about
40 percent of the observation wells measured in 2018 had water level
• 545 observation wells with increases ranging from 0.1 to 12.73 feet.
• 462 observation wells with decreases ranging from 0 to -.99 of a foot.
• 142 observation wells with decreases ranging from -1 to -1.99 feet.
• 63 observation wells with decreases ranging from -2 to -2.99 feet.
• 20 observation wells with decreases ranging from -3 to -3.99 feet
• 13 observation wells with decreases ranging from -4 to -4.99 feet.
• 5 observation wells with decreases ranging from -5 to -6.96 feet.
“Each year, there are wells that show water level rises and others
that show water level decreases. The largest water level rise was 12.73
feet in a Lubbock County well while the largest water level decline was
-6.96 feet in a Castro County well,” said Whitworth.
Updated water level data is now available to the public at
“Since 2013, the number of persons using the interactive map for
depth-to-water and saturated thickness information has increased
significantly. Because of this, HPWD is discontinuing its printed water
level report starting this year,” said Jason Coleman, General Manager. He
added that moving to an online data platform eliminates the cost of
printing and mailing the previous 84-page report, which saves taxpayer
Those who would like printed information should contact Jed Leibbrandt
at (806) 762-0181 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can provide
hard copies of water level measurement data for an individual county or
specific counties of interest.
Created in 1951 by local residents and the State Legislature, the High
Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 is charged with the
responsibility of conserving, preserving, protecting, and preventing waste
of groundwater in aquifers within its 16-county service area. HPWD is the
first groundwater conservation district created in Texas.
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“Cotton News” is a weekly publication of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.
For additional information contact PCG at 806-792-4904
PCG Email Services – Mary Jane Buerkle, Editor
Plains Cotton Growers Inc.
4517 W. Loop 289
Lubbock TX 79414
Phone (806) 792-4904
PCG Email Services provides news and articles covering cotton generally and West Texas specifically. The weekly PCG newsletter “Cotton News by Email” is also distributed through this service. Articles do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of PCG.