Cooler temperatures are starting to become a constant across the South Plains.
And because some farmers got their cotton in the ground later this year than usual, Lubbock County Extension Agent Mark Brown told us about 15 percent of the cotton has been harvested in Lubbock County, while 1/3 of the fields have been defoliated.
When it comes to the kind of weather that is needed right now, Brown said there is certain weather that is good and some that could be detrimental to the crop.
"At this time we really don't need any rain, especially any heavy rains," Brown said. "Now we received about an inch of rain in the last few weeks and that was really helpful for our wheat producers. But these cotton producers need good open weather right now, they need a few light freezes to condition that crop and then that'll allow them to get in there and get it so we have the least amount of degradation to that exposed lint."
A lot of the fields around Lubbock County are to the point that the bolls have started opening or have opened already.
With that in mind, and the temperatures continuing to drop, there are some ways that Mother Nature could have a negative impact on the quality of the cotton at this point of the season.
"Once we get those bolls opened up, then it's exposed to the elements and there's a lot of chance for degradation of that lint," Brown said. "And two things that can happen, especially if it gets wet, then you can see a shrinking of the fibers and you can see color degradation so that it tinges the whiteness of the cotton. Both of those affect the grades. So we don't want that to occur out here. Another hazard that producers face right now is if we have really windy conditions, or heavy rains or ice, that can string that cotton out and if that cotton falls out onto the ground there's really no way to retrieve it."
As we push now into the winter months of the year, Brown told us cotton development is done and it is time to start harvesting what you have.
"Whenever we look at what is required for cotton development it needs a base temperature of about 60 degrees," Brown said. "And so when we look at our daily average temperatures right now we're not even getting 60 degrees on most days. And so we are basically out of time for cotton development. So it's time to go ahead and get this crop conditioned down and get it off the stalk so that we can maintain those high lint grades that we're looking for."
This year getting all the cotton that they can out of the fields to the gins is very important, considering Lubbock County usually has 270,000 acres of cotton but this year it will fall short of that mark at about 131,000 acres.