Coastal cotton industry hit hard by Hurricane Harvey

By Adam Russell

CORPUS CHRISTI – Hurricane Harvey and its after-effects have the coastal cotton industry reeling, according to Texas A&M AgriLife experts.

Dr. John Robinson, College Station, said harvest activities were 40 percent complete leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and estimated 300,000 to 400,000 bales of cotton were still on the stalk prior to the storm.

“One producer I talked to said three quarters of his cotton was on the ground from the heavy rain and high winds,” he said.

Harvested cotton could also be impacted, he said.

Dr. Josh McGinty, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Corpus Christi, said cotton in his area would be fine as damaging winds and flooding occurred further north.

“There was some damage to modules but north, Refugio County and beyond, they’re in pretty rough shape,” he said.

McGinty said there were reports of cotton modules being scattered by high winds or standing in water.

“There were a lot of cotton in modules sitting in gin yards or on the roadside,” he said. “There was a lot of flooding and wind so that could damage those modules and decrease grades. It’s not just yield losses, there are likely to be losses in quality.”

Torrential rains, high winds and flooding may have hurt yields and quality, but the moisture also poses threats to producers, such as sprouting cotton seeds and aflatoxin in cottonseed. Ginning costs are typically covered by the seed value.

“Seed will be worth less due to sprouting, and that means those producers will have to pay extra to cover the cost of ginning.,” he said. “In those areas where modules remained wet for extended periods of time, we could see aflatoxin, which means if the levels are high enough seed cannot be safely utilized as feed.”

McGinty said another potential problem is damage sustained by cotton gin facilities within the hurricane’s path.

“There was damage to gins, but I am not sure to what extent at this point,” he said. “The gin in Bayside is likely done for the season. That just adds to a whole host of issues producers face right now and that will play out over the next few weeks.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Large volumes of scattered showers were delivered by Hurricane Harvey. Temperatures were cooler in the morning and evening. High winds caused tree damage. Harvest continued, but a lack of elevator storage hampered corn harvest. Sorghum yields were above average. Cotton fields were defoliated and prepared for harvest. Producers cut and baled hay. Producers were planting oats for winter crops. Pastures were unusually green for this time of year. Armyworms were reported. Cattle and other livestock were in good condition. Stock tanks were full. Nearly all counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good in nearly all counties.

EAST: Temperatures were milder around the district. Some fish kills were reported due to the cloudy days. Hurricane Harvey hit San Augustine County hard, dumping 11-20 inches of rain. Anderson County received 3 inches. Most counties received little or no rain from the hurricane. Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good. Excellent conditions were reported in Rusk and Gregg counties and very poor in Tyler County. Hay harvest continued as producers were able to cut pastures delayed by wet conditions and expected rain from Hurricane Harvey. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate with Tyler and Angelina counties reporting surplus. Anderson and Wood counties reported armyworm damage. Vegetable crop production slowed. Gregg County fall-season vegetable crops were planted. Upshur County producers were preparing winter pastures. Smith County producers were planting winter forages. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Some producers were supplementing feed in Anderson County. Fall cattle work was underway in Smith County.

SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate in counties that received rain, but moisture was still needed in the remaining counties. Both dryland and irrigated cotton fields were looking very good. Bolls were nearly done setting and looked very good. Producers continued to address weed management issues. Some bollworms and scattered aphids were reported. Peanuts were doing well overall in their development. Sugarcane aphid numbers remained very low across the area. However, yellow sugarcane aphids and cornleaf aphids were the most reported insect besides whorl feeding larvae. Area pasture and rangeland continued to remain in good condition. Cattle were in good condition as well.

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