Using two lanes

Staff photos by Albert Villegas

A cotton harvester operator drives through Wharton on Alabama Road after having operated the oversized cotton picker on county roads. The bottom photo shows one field in Wharton County full of cotton.

 

The Wharton County Extension Office is reporting that up to 40 percent of cotton has been harvested this year.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 24, the countryside in many parts around Wharton, El Campo and East Bernard are still blanketed in white – cotton that has yet to be collected.

Corrie Bowen, extension agent for WC, said 35 to 40 percent of cotton that has been harvested has come from 25,000 to 29,000 acres.

“Right now, it’s dry and pickers are running,” Bowen said. “By mid week, if it stays dry we might reach 50 percent harvested. We have some good yields out there.”

Having two tropical storms threaten WC within days like Marco and Laura have is in keeping with what occurred the last decade to the cotton industry.

“It’s been too common in the past five years for our area to receive, or be threatened by tropical systems right at cotton harvest; tropical storms Marco and Laura are weighing heavy on the minds of our cotton producers right now,” Bowen said. “It was just last year that Tropical Storm Imelda threatened us, but turned and went to the Chambers County and Jefferson County area, dropping 40 inches of rain. Then there was Hurricane Harvey, and in 2016 harvest started up for about two or three days, and then we received approximately 29 days of continuous rainfall – to the best of my memory.”

Nevertheless, Wharton County cotton growers certified 71,973.54 acres of cotton this year, according to the WC Extension Office. 

Bowen said only 13 percent of those acres are certified as irrigated, the remainder is dryland cotton. 

As of Aug. 24, 2020 it’s estimated that only 15 percent (10,796 acres) has not been defoliated, Bowen added. 

Cotton specialist

Earlier this year, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension hosted an Upper Gulf Coast Feed Grain & Cotton Conference at the Wharton County Youth Fairgrounds.

The event in January was attended by Dr. John Robinson, who was one of the speakers. He is an AgriLife Extension cotton marketing specialist.

Bowen spoke about how the threat of rain has cast a shadow on the cotton industry here for several years.

Dr. Robinson spoke here two months before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way of life for thousands in WC, including those in the cotton industry.

In an interview in March with Cotton Grower, he said cotton prices had dropped due to the disease’s effects on global production, manufacturing and consumption.

“The human toll is evident, but there’s also a lot of disruption to commerce, including to cotton,” Dr. Robinson told Cotton Grower. “You’ve got hundreds of millions of people in Asia who are staying at home. That affects everything from ships not being unloaded to textile manufacturing and consumption.”

Last Friday, Aug. 21 Dr. Robinson reported on the AgriLife Extension website (www.cottonmarketing.tamu.edu) that longer term damage to cotton consumption by the COVID-19 pandemic will take many months to resolve. 

“The normalization of cotton’s global supply chain and consumers’ willingness to buy more apparel may take longer,” he said. “Hence a return to profitable market price levels may not happen during 2020.”

He does see the possibility of higher prices for the 2021 crop, but for bad reasons like La Niña drought.

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