by Ron Smith, Delta Farm Press
Oklahoma farmers are poised to make one of their best cotton crops ever. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimates place production at 960 pounds per acre, almost 100 pounds higher than last year’s record yield.
Early reports from Southwest Oklahoma gins, Extension specialists, and farmers indicate some irrigated fields closing in on 4 bales per acre, and dryland around 2 bales per acre — all despite a season that started off with weather challenges and included significant losses to bacterial blight in some areas.
Early wet weather delayed planting, pushing some farmers near insurance deadlines to get the crop in. But ample rainfall, including a wetter than usual July, helped make record yields possible.
It also provided a perfect environment for bacterial blight, says Randy Boman, research director at the Oklahoma State University Southwest Research and Extension Center at Altus, and state Extension cotton program leader.
The blight occurred in a year with limited pressure from the usual suspects. “We typically don’t have root knot nematode or Fusarium wilt problems,” Boman says, “and we had very little Verticillium wilt.”
Boman says bacterial blight is not new; it shows up occasionally, and is one of those pathogens that may be around all the time, just looking for the right environment to show itself. It’s not something growers face every year, “and it’s not often a big deal — unless it happens to you.”