Monday, October 27, 2014

Cotton Growers Welcome Dry Weather …This Time of Year

Throughout the year, dry weather dominated the talk among farmers across the San Joaquin Valley.  In the winter and early spring, they looked to the skies for a heavy helping of wet weather to come, but came up empty.
Indian summer arrives in time for the cotton harvest.
This time of year, though, dry weather is welcomed by cotton growers with the fall harvest in full swing. So far, we’ve been experiencing a rain-free October with the daily temperatures averaging nearly 89 degrees – some 15 degrees above the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. October normally averages about one-third inch of rain.
Some years, we have seen above-average rainfall totals – storms that slowed the harvest and threatened fiber quality.
We remember that three years ago -- October 5 to be precise – Mother Nature dropped nearly an inch of rain. We fondly recall October 13, 2009 when 1.28 inches of rain drenched Valley cotton fields.  That day, dozens of visitors touring the cotton fields during the Sustainable Cotton Project’s annual farm tour got soaked as they slogged through the muddy fields to get a close look at water-logged fiber. By the way, another .11 inches fell the next day. 
There are no worries about rain-soaked cotton this season.
Usually, a little rain helps wash off any dust or sticky honeydew on the plants. As long as the sun comes out and there’s a nice warm wind blowing the next day, the cotton will dry sufficiently to avoid any concerns about mold or mildew problems.

This year, our Indian summer is perfect weather for cotton harvesting – as well as Jack o’ lanterns, scare crows and trips to the pumpkin patch. This Halloween, growers are counting on a nice treat – good cotton quality.
Field scout Carlos Silva says all growers have finished defoliating their cotton plants. He estimates about half of the fields have been harvested.  On the pest front, white fly and aphid populations have been in check, allaying fears about sticky cotton. 
Sign warns about defoliation.
Speaking of farm tours, you might see a couple tour buses rumbling around the cotton fields on Thursday. The ever-popular Cotton Farm Tour takes place again. Sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project, the annual free event offers visitors from fashion brands, design students, government agencies and other community members a behind-the-scenes look at the many sides of cotton production. 
One more cutting looms for Valley alfalfa growers.

Meanwhile, Carlos says most alfalfa growers are experiencing a rather normal season. By his count, some three out of four growers are looking at harvesting one more time. Some are even squeezing out one more crop without irrigating this round.

Cutting started last week and more alfalfa harvesting will continue this week.


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