PCG EMAIL SERVICES: LUBBOCKONLINE.COM - AgriLife researcher: Demand up for high-quality cotton

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LUBBOCKONLINE.COM - AgriLife researcher: Demand up for high-quality cotton
Gaylon Morgan, other researchers, update farmers at Texas A&M AgriLife's Cotton Fiber Quality Conference


Updated: August 6, 2016 - 12:09am

Gaylon Morgan recalls a farmer telling him his per-pound price contract leads him to focus on yields over quality.

The state extension cotton specialist pointed out in a competitive global market, selling enough bad cotton could eventually mean no contract at all.

“We've seen a tremendous increase for the need for fiber quality,” he said Thursday during Texas A&M AgriLife Extension's Cotton Fiber Quality Conference and Tour.

Morgan, who is based with AgriLife's College Station headquarters, described consumer demand to a group of fellow researchers and producers. Years ago, he said, a majority of U.S. cotton stayed in the domestic market. Now, 85 percent of the crop is exported.

And if any of those international customers grows dissatisfied, they could easily switch purchase agreements to China, Brazil or a number of other cotton-growing countries.

“We're competing with them in price, but we're definitely competing with them in quality,” he said.

Cotton fiber quality is measured in factors such as length, strength, uniformity and color grade. Micronaire, a common term in quality analysis, indicates fiber fineness and maturity.

Morgan recommended farmers find a balance between maximizing yields without sacrificing micronaire quality.

Like humans, cotton traits develop from environmental and genetic factors. Environment plays a larger role during events like the record drought five years ago, Morgan said:

“You have extreme conditions like 2011, even genetics (go) out the window.”

Fields are certainly drier than farmers would prefer this year, too.

How are they holding up? Surprisingly well, another speaker said.

“We've got a lot of dryland that looks pretty good,” said Seth Byrd, a local AgriLife cotton agronomist.

Fields with enough irrigation water are in even better shape.

Byrd recalled a rainy late spring that significantly helped the early season.

“Because of the rain, we really planted into good moisture,” he said. “Then July hit, and someone turned the heat up and the moisture off.”

As far as weeds, South Plains cotton patches vary significantly, said Peter Dotray, an AgriLife weed scientist.

“I'm seeing fields that look like this” - he pointed behind where he was standing to neat rows of cotton without a weed in sight - “and I'm seeing fields that look far from this.”

Unfortunately for the more infested patches, it's too late for the ideal weed-killing solution: applying residual herbicides before the growing season.

Later in the season, it may be tempting to ignore pesky plants if you don't think they'll compete for water with your cotton or interfere with harvest. The problem with that approach, though, is how many more weeds you'll soon have.

Instead, it's probably time to break out a hoe.

“I don't have a whole lot of helpful hints other than we've just gotta chop 'em before they start producing seed,” Dotray said.

josephine.musico at lubbockonline.com o 766-8796
Follow Josie on Twitter @josiemusico

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