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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Water makes the crop

  • Irrigated cotton producing well, dryland yield fair to poor.
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  • They sit like giant white loaves of bread with colorful coverings keeping them secure.
    Numerous cotton modules surround the High Plains Cotton Gin on the east side of Cullison as they wait for their turn in the gin.
    The area cotton harvest is about 75 complete so the number of modules will continue to grow, said Roger Sewell, cotton promoter and sales person.
    At a time when the area is in the second year of a drought and water is a precious commodity, the irrigated cotton produced a very good crop while the dry land harvest was hit and miss, running from fairly good to poor, Sewell said.
    The ginning process has just gotten started so it's difficult to determine the overall quality of the crop but the preliminary irrigated modules have produced some very good cotton.
    Water has become a critical factor in cotton as well as other crops.
    The number of irrigated cotton acres this year has increased significantly over 2011. At the same time the number of dry land acres has decreased because of the drought. Some of those dry land cotton acres went to wheat while some were never planted simply because the moisture wasn't there.
    "Dry land acres are down 50 percent over what they have been in the past in our territory," Sewell said.
    If the area doesn't get rain or snow this winter and the spring rains don't come, dry land crops of all kinds are going to be in bad shape because the subsoil moisture is critically low.
    Cotton requires less water than other crops like corn, soybeans and milo so it is a water and money saver for farmers.
    "We're seeing a lot of acres with short water go to cotton," Sewell said.
    Cotton also requires heat units and the drought has provided plenty of days of high temperatures.
    Farmers are limited on the mount of water they can use so some farmers are turning to cotton because they don't have enough water for anything else.
    Cotton requires from 10 to 12 to 14 inches of water while corn requires about 18 inches of water so it is a strong factor in farmers deciding to plant cotton.
    "It's (cotton) not a savior but it's a solution to some of our water problems," Sewell said. "It will make you money."
    When cotton was first introduced to the area, no varieties were specifically bred to this part of the country.
    But that has changed. Now, new varieties are on the market and that has made cotton a lot easier to rise in this part of the country.
    "Technology has made a huge difference in cotton," Sewell said. "Cotton has a fit in Pratt County. I think cotton is here to stay."
    Page 2 of 2 - The productivity of cotton has caught the eye of many farmers and more are planting acres every year.
    The dry, warm weather impacted the start of harvest this year. Cotton, like wheat, was ready to harvest much earlier this year than usual. Harvest started about 10 days earlier than normal and that means ginning also go underway about 10 days earlier.
    Normally, cotton harvest usually gets started the first week in November but this year the harvest is about 75 percent done in the second week.
    The weather has cooperated and harvest is moving quickly across the area and county.
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