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A load of cotton bolls rumbles through John Pattee’s field southwest of Lawton last month. Spotty rainfall in some parts of the state gave cotton farmers a good crop; in other areas, little or no rainfall left farmers with nothing to harvest.

Cotton harvest better than first thought

Effects of the drought  which started in late 2010, continued the next two years and then abated somewhat in 2013  have been devastating for much of the dryland farming in Oklahoma. 
 
Cotton production is a good example. Spotty rainfall in some parts of the state gave cotton farmers a good crop; in other areas, little or no rainfall left farmers with nothing to harvest.
 
Irrigation, usually in the form of wells and pivot systems, helped many cotton growers to harvest record yields of good-quality cotton. Jackson County's 40,000-acre-plus irrigation system watered by Lake Altus-Lugert has not functioned since 2010 because of insufficient water in the lake.
 
Pivot irrigation systems in far southwestern Jackson County and in Caddo County helped cotton farmers to harvest three to four bales of cotton per acre. Plenty of rainfall in Custer County near Elk City and near Minco gave farmers bumper dryland cotton crops.
 
It has been an unusual harvest with crop failures occurring in one field and a bumper crop across the road in another field, sometimes farmed by the same producer.
 
Overall, Jay Cowart, cotton warehouse vice president of the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association in Altus, said the cotton harvest has been a lot better than producers thought it would be.
 
"We have 280,000 bales in our Altus warehouse right now," he said. "We believe the season will wind up with around 320,000 bales for the season. Some gins are still ginning, and in a few cases farmers are still harvesting cotton." The Altus facility stores cotton from North Texas and Oklahoma, he said. Cotton quality has been relatively good considering the tenuous growing conditions the crop faced, he said.
 
Farmers who are members of the Farmers Cooperative cotton gins in Eldorado and Carnegie are blessed with wells using pivot irrigation systems and their season bale total demonstrates that fact.
 
The Eldorado gin processed 24,231 bales this season. Carnegie's gin has processed 23,968 bales to date and has 4,000 more bales to gin. Those bales are either setting on the gin yard or still on the field turn row where they were harvested, gin manager Jeannie Hileman said.

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