Monday, April 3, 2017

Increased Water Supplies Bode Well for Cotton Rebound

With April now here, it’s time for the cotton season to ramp up in the San Joaquin Valley.

This is the time when growers begin cotton planting and start the clock ticking for the fall harvest. Typically, it takes 180 to 200 days for cotton to be ready for picking.

The weather has been warming up with some days topping 80 degrees. The blazing spring sun makes it feel even warmer.

Cotton planting will be in full swing in the Valley this month.
Field scout Jenna Mayfield saw some early-bird growers planting at the end of March.  These growers anticipate seedlings popping out of the ground soon, especially with the warmer weather upon us.

“Cotton is getting started. A lot of other crops are being planted, too,” Jenna said. 

As we mentioned earlier, the word in the field is growers expect to increase the cotton acreage because of the extremely wet winter and increased water allocations. That’s good news after five years of drought and little to no water allocations allowed by regulators.
The Eastside Bypass was full of water from the winter storms.

This winter’s rains have meant most of the Valley is out of the drought – except for the Westside, which is usually drier than the rest of the region. 

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced it will deliver 65 percent of water to suppliers such as the Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water provider. Westlands serves cotton growers in western Fresno County. 

Last year, the allocation was 5 percent and no water allocation was allotted for 2014 and 2015. The district was banking on a full delivery and issued a statement saying it was still disappointed by the initial allocation during a near-record rainfall year, adding growers will continue to resort to groundwater supplies to make up the difference.

In other water news, state Department of Water Resources surveyors headed up U.S. Highway 50 near Echo Summit and took their monthly measurement of the snowpack water content. The results: 183 percent above average for this time of year. Last year, the mountain was bare.

Measuring the snowpack.. (Dept. of Water Resources photo)
State climatologist Michael Anderson said while snowfall fell off significantly in March “California enters the snowmelt season with a large snowpack that will result in high water in many rivers through the spring.”

Growers are hoping the bountiful snowmelt will prompt federal officials to boost the final water allocation.  Still, farmers are glad about the increased water availability after dealing with years of drought. 

While cotton is just getting started, some alfalfa growers have started to do their first cutting of the season. There should be no problem for the alfalfa season to extend into the fall. In 2015, some growers stopped harvesting their alfalfa in the early summer, choosing to divert their precious water supplies to more profitable crops.
“Things are looking good for alfalfa,” field scout Carlos Silva says.


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