Hail takes toll on cotton crop

By Leslie Radford: Freedom Newspapers

Hundreds of acres of cotton have been damaged or destroyed by hail damage in West Texas over the last week, according to area cotton farmers.
Todd Lingnau said out of the 1,500 acres he has planted, 120 of them will make a decent harvest — that’s because they were in Curry County and survived last Friday’s night storm that damaged his fields in Bailey and Parmer counties.
“I’m just glad it happened early in the season,” Lingnau said. “I have insurance that will cover the expenses if the crop doesn’t make.”
Farwell Gin Manager Deon Hunt said her customers had expected a productive harvest this year until last week’s storm hit.
“Some farmers may have to plow their fields and plant something else,” she said. “They’ve lost out on the entire (cotton) season.”
Hunt said the Farwell Gin processes about 10,000 bales of cotton on average each year. Hunt said those numbers will be down significantly this year. She said it is hard to assess the crop this early in the season, it may have time to recuperate and produce a fair yield.
“We’re holding out for some good hot, dry weather right now,” she said. “Cotton thrives on that.”
She said about two bales of cotton can be made from one acre. At $250 per bale, farmers may see losses in the thousands if the crop does not make a come back before harvest in late October.
Lingnau said his crop as of now will probably make less than 1,000 bales versus his average of 3,500.
Muleshoe Co-op Gin manager Darwin Robertson calculates 50 to 60 percent of Bailey County’s cotton crop has been damaged in the past week.
“There is still an awful lot of good cotton out there,” he said. “(The hail) was not consistent in many of the fields. Some crops were not completely destroyed.”
Robertson said he expects to process half the crop as last year.
According to state records, there was 85,300 acres of cotton planted in Bailey County in 2004, producing 104,500 bales
Similar numbers were reported in Parmer County.
Roosevelt and Curry counties have not seen the extent of damage that Bailey and Parmer have seen, according to Roosevelt County Extension Agent Floyd McAlister.
“We’ve seen minimal hail damage,” he said. “At this point, we’re expecting a reasonable crop.”
The National Weather Service expects a wet summer for the area with potential for more hail.
Meteorologist Bill Hopkins said severe thunderstorms will carry on through tonight moving toward the south east.
“The primary threat right now seems to be wind, but hail is definitely a possibility,” Hopkins said. “This summer looks to be on the warm side continuing with a wet pattern.”
He said hail is most common between the months of April and June.