Monday, November 7, 2011

Say Hello to More Rain: The Cotton Harvest Put on Hold

“Rain, rain, go away
come again another day
the farmer wants to harvest cotton …”
It is a good bet that many San Joaquin Valley cotton growers would love to recite to this little variation of the classic nursery rhyme. They would love to have the unseasonable early fall rain go away and come back again in December. Cotton growers certainly have had to deal with weird weather this season.
First, early spring rain delayed planting for many growers. Then early fall rain slowed defoliation of the cotton plants. Now, last Thursday’s and Saturday’s storms, which dropped up to a half inch  of rain in our region area – put a temporary halt to the cotton harvest. Growers are counting on two days of sunny weather with light winds to dry the lint before resuming the harvest.
While the fields weren’t muddy for the harvesters, the rigs were idled because the fiber had absorbed too much moisture. Wet cotton stored in modules waiting to be ginned could develop mold. Growers don’t want to risk that.
 Around central and north part of the Valley, I estimate about 80 percent of Acala – which develops earlier than Pima cotton – has been harvested. There is still lots of cotton left in the fields waiting to be harvested. In California, growers planted 190,000 acres of Acala and 260,000 acres of Pima.

 Some Pima growers have finished their first harvest and are ready for the second picking. Others haven’t even started harvesting at all. In fact, there is concern the rain has spurred re-growth of the Pima plants and may require growers to defoliate again.
So far, growers are not overly concerned. For some, the rain gave them an unexpected break. Others could get a jump preparing to plow down their harvested acreage. We’ll see how the weather plays out later this week with more rain in the forecast for Friday and the weekend. For now, repeat after me: “Rain, rain go away …”
Cotton Tour Here: Don’t be alarmed to seek large tour buses traveling the country roads on Tuesday. That’s our annual Cotton Tour passing by. If you see us, wave hello to our participants, who will meet with local growers, visit a gin and even pick some cotton. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m. I’ll let you know how it goes next time.

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