Cotton quality affected by drought conditions, trash in fields

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 7:06 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The quality of cotton can be affected by many things, making producers less money. Lately, farmers on the South Plains have dealt with many challenges that come with weather conditions, including keeping it up to standard.

The CEO of Plains Cotton Growers, Kody Bessent, said weather affects what is called the micronaire of the cotton. That determines fiber maturity and fineness. If the micronaire is not in good condition, the quality suffers.

“Typically in a, in a very abrupt cold spell when that boll is trying to mature and fill out that can have a negative impact on micronaire,” Bessent said.

The past two seasons, it has not been the cold hurting king cotton, it has been the dry heat.

“The year that we’ve shaped up to have, and even the year that we had last year, on drought-stricken type of conditions and high heat really restricts the final maturity of that boll, or can restrict the final maturity of that boll and have a big impact on the micronaire content,” Bessent said.

Like KCBD has reported on before, once that cotton makes it to the classifying office, the fiber quality is checked. If it is not up to standard, the farmer gets less money.

“In return of that, it has a lower return on investment or a lower price point for the producer depending on the other 10 grade features that they experience,” Bessent said.

There are other things that affect the quality of cotton. Bessent said it is common for trash to be found in cotton fields. If trash is in the cotton bales, it can also cause the producer to lose more money.

“It will be wrapped up in the bale and sometimes it’s very hard to extrapolate that in the actual ginning process, and then it makes it all the way to the bale process and the grading system,” Bessent said.

Trash also has a long-term impact on everyone.

“If that plastic makes it all the way in that bale to an overseas market to a textile mill, then that causes a little bit of challenges when they’re trying to spin that yarn,” Bessent said.

If the quality is suffering, that even affects consumers because it could cause a lower supply.

“A consumer a lot of times will pay more for a consumable based good, or sometimes even availability of a type of product you want is limited,” Bessent said.

Bessent adds the drought is not only impacting dryland cotton. He said it is impacting irrigated acres, because with the extremely hot days, the pivot irrigation systems cannot keep up.