SAN PATRICIO COUNTY – While driving through South Texas during this time of the year, you’ll notice tractors on the road carrying loads of bales ... because it’s time to harvest the cotton fields.

Farmers Joe Oelschlegel and John Bremer, along with Biofac Crop Care President (Buddy) Maedgen Jr., Biofac Crop Care representative Charles Neal and San Patricio County Extension Agent Bobby McCool, gathered last Friday at Bremer Farms in West Sinton to witness the cotton harvest take place and to discuss the different aspects that go into cotton production. 

According to McCool, the beginning of the cotton picking season can fluctuate.

“Sometimes it’ll be mid-July, sometimes it’ll mid-August, it just really depends. But it’s usually around that time,” said McCool. “We should be done by the first of October. I mean, in theory we should be done before then, but normally August or September are the cotton picking months.”

“The crop is normally planted around the first of April,” said  Maedgen.

McCool said that San Patricio has nearly 120,000 acres of cotton growing this season.

“(The acres) are normally in the neighborhood of 100,000, but I think there was an increased planting of cognition,” McCool said.

The life cycle

The average life cycle of cotton from germination to harvesting is 160 days.

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s website, it takes seven to eight days for germination, the process by which an organism grows from a seed, to take place.

Some 45 days after emergence, flower buds begin to appear.  The first flowers begin to emerge 60 to 65 days after germination. 

Bolls, which look like small green eggs, will form 50 to 55 days after flowering. 

After 65 more days, the boll will open and get dry, causing air to expose the cotton fibers. When the cotton fibers are exposed, that is when farmers will begin to harvest. 

Yielding average

The average yield in San Patricio County is 750 pounds of lint cotton. 

“And that’s what we judge by, it’s not what the bale is, it’s how much, you know, actual syllable fiber that you have after it goes through the ginning process,” McCool said.

“Any time you can produce 1,000 pounds of clean land and bale is a good year.”

“At this moment in time with the genetics and all that we have, plant genetics, that’s good. It’s always better to produce more but two bales is a good figure.”

After harvesting on Friday, Neal reported from the 470 acres, there were 2.4 bales per acre, which came to around 1,200 pounds of lint cotton.

Enhancement product

By using a yield enhancing product called Biofac SurgePro, farmers have been able to produce more crops.

“It enhances the health of the plant first of all, and then it puts the plant in gear to go ahead and send a lot more fruit than it would normally,” Maedgen said. 

“The roots go down deeper than they normally would, which is another advantage in dry times; that plant will sit down a lot longer and wait for rain before it starts to unload a lot of fruit.”

“So, normally what we would expect on a SurgePro traded field is about a 20% increase in yield, year in and year out.”

Economic impact

McCool said it is difficult to say exactly what the economic impact will be at this moment, but talked about figures from 2017 and 2018.

“In 2017, cotton in San Pat County produced about $100 million,” said McCool. “In 2018, which was on a kind of a normal, not-as-good-kind-of-year, it produced about $70 million worth of income.”

Additionally, McCool said that in 2017 Nueces County produced around $130 million worth in income from cotton production, while Refugio County produced about $30 to 35 million. 

“In just in those three counties, including San Patricio County, along the coast resulted in about $270 million from cotton production,” Maedgen said. 

“(Cotton) has a major impact economically for the Coastal Bend area, very positive.”

After harvesting

Once the cotton picking tractors have finished harvesting the cotton and it is put into bales, a module truck will haul those bales to a gin.

“When its (the bales) turn comes, it will be taken into the gin, torn up, run through the gin stands where the cotton and the seed will be separated,” McCool said.

“Cotton goes one way to be pressed into a bale. The seeds goes to another warehouse to be sold as cotton seeds.”

“Then the trash, anything that’s not cotton, is sent to another pile, and that’s used for cattle feed, compost. So, very little of this is wasted.”

Neal said after the bales are pressed, they will be stored in a warehouse located at the Port of Corpus Christi.

“From there, it’ll be shipped out to places in the United States as well as overseas,” Neal said.

A good season

Everyone at Friday’s harvest agreed this season would be a good one.

“I mean, we’ve had rain and had a good soil moisture profile to begin with and got a timely rain in June,” McCool said.

“We could have used another one in between, but this feels pretty good.”