Texas cotton farmers abandon cotton fields at alarming rate

The drought of 2022 is causing Texas cotton farmers to abandon cotton fields at an alarming rate.

Dryland cotton was the first to go as Mother Nature provided no moisture to get the crop started.

“For all intents and purposes, the dryland crop is gone,” said Darren Hudson, Texas Tech Combest Endowed Chair of Ag Competitiveness Economist.

There was a time in Texas history when there was enough irrigation water available to sustain a cotton crop through a drought, but those days are long gone with aquifer levels dropping every year. As a result, even irrigated acres are being abandoned this year.

“There’s a significant portion of the irrigated crop that, if it hasn’t already been plowed up, it’s going to be plowed up pretty soon,” Hudson said. “For those that have good water, there are stands out there that look really good, but that is sparce and getting worse by the day.”

One farmer who watched his crop dry up and die is J.R. Cudd. He planted over 1,500 acres of cotton in the Wellman area, southwest of Lubbock. He planted cotton under 13 irrigation pivots.

“I have one circle left,” Cudd said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “I moved to West Texas in ’92, and I’ve never seen it this dry since I’ve been here.”

Cudd now questions his ability to keep just that one circle of cotton alive.

“It’s just taking so much water this time, and our wells are going downhill in a hurry,” he said. “We can water for about five days. Then, we have to let them rest.”

With all of the dryland crop gone, and irrigated acres now being abandoned, just how much of a crop will West Texas produce this year?

Hudson said it won’t be a total crop failure, but the damage is significant.

“A hundred percent of the dryland is gone, and a significant portion, probably 20 to 30 percent of the irrigated crop, has been failed out,” he said. “There’s another 10 or 15 percent that’s sitting there on the margin.”

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