Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks to an Uneventful Year for Valley Cotton, Alfalfa

 Valley cotton and alfalfa growers can sit down to turkey dinner on Thursday and be thankful that another season is under their belt.

Water availability remains a major issue for Valley farmers.
They will thankful that the year – while not spectacular – was rather uneventful. While water remained a major issue (and will continue to be entering 2014 unless we experience a very wet year), there were no major pest or disease problems that threatened their crops, notes cotton field scout Carlos Silva. For the most part, lygus and aphids were under control. Some growers grappled with whitefly infestations and some dealt with Race 4 Fusarium invading parts of their fields.

Cotton fields are being plowed down.
The last chore for the season has been plowing down the harvested cotton fields to meet cotton plowdown rules aimed at preventing pink bollworm infestation. Some growers have already prepared their rows for next season. How much cotton we’ll see planted next year depends on how much water will be available in 2014. We’ll know more as the winter progresses. At least the rain that buffeted the Valley – a half inch around these parts – and Northern California last week is an encouraging sign.

Low water allocations, especially in the west side of the Valley, played a role in the drop in cotton acreage this year. Last Tuesday’s report by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in Sacramento estimated the 2013 acala/upland cotton production at 310,000 480-pound bales, down 39 percent from last year. Nationally, upland production is predicted to be down 25 percent. California pima production is forecast at 600,000 bales, down 20 percent. The bulk of U.S. pima fiber is grown in California.

Perhaps, growers will work off some of their Thanksgiving meal by doing a little rain dance.

Meanwhile, Carlos points out alfalfa producers finished their final cut of the season as temperatures started dropping. Alfalfa production, too, suffered a down year, the USDA says. Acreage is forecast to drop 5.3 percent to 90,000 acres in 2013 while yield is predicted to dip 3.9 percent to 630,000 tons.

The number of cotton bales produced expected to drop.
Alfalfa growers completed their final cutting for 2013.
Early in the season, many growers had to deal with blue alfalfa aphids, which stunted growth during the spring. Other pests, though, remained fairly in check throughout the season, Carlos says.

 Overall, it was a pretty average year for cotton and alfalfa growers. No one seems to be complaining.

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