In a year when rain was scarce but temperatures over 100 degrees were bountiful, cotton proved to be a steady crop.

In a year when rain was scarce but temperatures over 100 degrees were bountiful, cotton proved to be a steady crop.

Cotton has to have high heat units to thrive but it also has to have some moisture. Even with the extreme heat, cotton managed to produce a crop even on dryland where other crops failed to produce.

“Dryland was marginal at best,” said producer Kent Goyen who farms 320 acres of cotton, 260 acres that is irrigated. “The irrigated was average at best.”

While the yield was down, the overall quality was pretty decent.

“It (quality) varied quite a bit but overall it was pretty good,” Goyen said.

Goyen, like other irrigated cotton farmers, had to pump more water than usual to the cotton and that may have hurt the grade on some fields. The moisture may have gone into the foliage instead.

A lot of cotton’s success depends on getting it planted and up at the right time. Overall Goyen got his cotton planted and growing in good shape.

“We were timely on the planting,” Goyen said. “That was not a problem.”

Other farmers weren’t so lucky. Gary Barker didn’t get the rain needed to get his cotton crop up and ended up tearing up his entire crop and planting it to milo, Barker said.

Cotton has to be planted close to the surface and the lack of moisture prevented his crop from growing.

“We didn’t have enough moisture to get a good stand,” said Barker who has several hundred acres of dryland southeast of Pratt.

A few farmers in his area did hit it just right and some fields did make a crop but for the most part the cotton just didn’t have enough moisture to grow in his area. 

When he went in to certify his acres, he just changed it all to milo that did produce at least enough yield to run a combine.

Extreme heat and little moisture were the big problems facing all farmers this summer and not just the cotton growers.

The heat caused bolls to be small then average. On the dryland, bolls were about half the size they would be under average conditions. Even the cotton under irrigation was smaller than it would have been in a normal year.

Yields for irrigated cotton were about average with about 1,000 pounds to 1,200 pounds of cotton per acre.

The dryland cotton really struggled to produce a crop. Goyen’s dryland produced from 200 to 300 pounds per acre and that is about half the yield from 2010 when fields got ample rain.

While cotton needs heat to thrive, the summer temperatures were excessive even for that crop. The average high temperature for July in Pratt was 101 degrees with 23 days reaching 100 degrees and over for the month.

The lack of precipitation didn’t help. Pratt received about half its average rainfall for the year.

Irrigated cotton didn’t produce as well as expected and dryland suffered even more so. But other crops did not fare as well as cotton and that has farmers taking a close look at expanding the number of acres planted to cotton in 2012, Goyen said.

Many farmers over pumped their irrigation and that has farmers looking at their water allotment. From what he has heard, Goyen said he anticipates several thousand more acres going into cotton.

“I think there’ll be more irrigated cotton planted next year,” Goyen said. “I think there’ll be more in Pratt County the way everybody was talking.”

Besides yield, the cotton market was down substantially from 2010 when cotton prices reached an all time high of over $1 a pound. The price is down to about 80 cents right now.

China and India are heavy importers of U.S. cotton and those markets have a strong influence on the U.S. cotton market, Goyen said.