Texas Cotton Growers Await Delayed Fall Freeze | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

News from around the state of Texas

Texas Cotton Growers Await Delayed Fall Freeze

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    KLBK-TV

    Temperatures have dropped, but not enough.

    The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports that near Meadow, Cliff Bingham is starting to grow frustrated.

    "We're praying real hard for a freeze right now," the Terry County farmer said.

    Lubbock County's average first-freeze date is Oct. 31. More than two weeks past that date, temperatures still have not reached close to freezing.

    Bingham grows organic cotton, meaning he can't spray it with pre-harvest chemical defoliant. Instead, he's stuck waiting for Mother Nature to kill the leaves.

    A freeze is defined as temperatures dropping below 32 degrees. When that happens, plants stop growing.

    That's why you obviously wouldn't want a freeze too early in a crop season. A 20-degree cold snap in, say, early September could hurt cotton yields. Grapes, similarly, can be devastated if a freeze hits in late spring.

    But this late in the fall, yield potential has hit a tipping point.

    "By the end of October, cotton has done all it can do," said Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers.

    Bingham estimates that in his 25 years of organic farming, 90 percent of crop seasons had already seen their first freeze by mid-November.

    Verett agreed, "We're well beyond our average frost date."

    But it won't stay warm forever. The South Plains can expect its first freeze Friday night.

    "It looks like we will finally see a good cold front coming through," said Jenn Daniel, a meteorologist with the Lubbock branch of the National Weather Service.

    Then, temperatures will drop into the mid-to-upper 20s, she said. The meteorologist anticipates a windy but dry freeze, unaccompanied by any freezing rain or snow.

    Bingham is now occupying his time with his grapes and other crops as he waits for this late temperature drop.

    "We've got plenty to keep us busy, but we would rather be harvesting cotton," he said.

    Even conventional farmers who haven't harvested yet are growing anxious.

    Verett is concerned for growers around Lamesa who received up to 5 inches a rain earlier this month. As a result, their fields are still too wet to reach, and plants they already defoliated could see some regrowth.

    But worst-case scenario, harvest completion could be late. Good news comes in anticipated yields: Plains Cotton Growers estimates 4.3 million bales in its region, the largest amount since 2010.

    "It's gonna be a good crop," Verett said.