The month of May was a wet one. While most of the time local ranchers and farmers welcome the wet stuff, when heavy rainfall comes in a short period of time it could be detrimental to a crop’s health.

Around Taft and Portland, farmers are seeing what is known as yellow cotton which is what happens to the cotton crop when it sits in standing water for too long and turns their green leaves yellow. When this happens and the plants manage to survive, it stunts their growth which in turn yields less cotton and the farmers make less money from their harvest. 

While not every farmer in the county is suffering from yellow cotton, enough are to make it a cause for concern in the area.

“Some of us are doing pretty good and some of us are doing pretty bad,” San Patricio County Extension Agent Bobby McCool said. “If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s running right down the middle for us.

“This doesn’t happen very often. A lot a lot of fields around Sodville, Taft, Gregory and Portland just stayed under water so long it’s really having an affect on the cotton. 

“I don’t think some of it is going to come out of it.”

McCool said that if the weather stays dry there is a chance the yellow cotton could recover and return to it’s natural state, but it’s too early to tell if that’s the case.

“In places where the cotton should be 12 inches tall or more tall, they’re 3 or 4 inches tall – in some cases still standing in water,” National Sorghum Producers Board Director and Sinton farmer Bobby Nedbalek said. “We had about 10 to 15 inches of rain up to somewhere around 20 inches in some places. All in the same time period of about 20 days.”

Nedbalek said last year they had sort of the same situation with the amount of rainfall, but it all fell at once and wasn’t spread throughout nearly the entire month which didn’t give the plants a chance to dry out and recover.

Another devastating issue facing farmers is that commodity prices were down last year but have rebounded so farmers were eager to get in a good size crop.

“The commodities are up in all things like grain sorghum, corn and cotton,” McCool said. “The prices or are looking pretty decent, so that could help, but it’s just going to depend on if this cotton can come out of it. Some of the yellow cotton that you see will eventually be all right, but there’s other fields that just look really bad.

“I honestly don’t think they’ll recover.”

With water currently still standing in some fields, the questions turn to the grain sorghum crop which is also in the ground as well.

“Grains look like they’re tolerating water better than the cotton,” Nedbalek added. “Too much rain this time of year is just really devastating if the fields aren’t able to drain and dry up a little bit in between.”

McCool said, “Well there’s no way you can tell for sure if the grain will be unharmed because there’s various diseases associated with a lot of water. Most plants do not like to stand in water for very long and it causes issues, but the sorghum and the corn tend to be able to handle a little more moisture than cotton.

“But as far as how much cotton can be saved and how much will be a total loss is yet to be seen.”

•pgonzales@mysoutex.com•

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