Coastal Bend cotton farmers have had a tough year

By Jennifer Whitlock
Field editor

Farmers on the Texas Coastal Curve faced a series of challenges that affected their crop yields and the harvest season.

The unusually wet and mild spring and summer sound like a farmer’s dream come true, but Chris Buzek, a member of the Victoria County Agricultural Bureau, said the rainfall was too much and too fast. All year.

In May, Buzek and other farmers in Victoria County received 10 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.

“We said ‘Oh, this is terrible!’ But if only we knew what was going to happen after that, we would have stopped there, ”he said. “Since then, we have had the opportunity to work in the fields, then it rains again. We’ve had four or five days of clear weather lately, but we have another rainy week ahead. So we have to hurry and try to do what we can and hope for the best. “

Buzek noted that the heavy clay soils common to the region can only hold a certain amount of water before they are oversaturated. When there is no room for the drainage of water, fields turn into ponds.

Some of his cotton was underwater at least twice. Without oxygen, the plants cannot survive, so he lost part of the harvest.

The plants that survived needed more fertilizer to make up for the water that was leaching out all the nutrients. But the yields were still low.

“The county average is going to be lower than what we did. There are a few smaller fields here and there that have worked really well, ”said Buzek. “But most of the big fields just didn’t produce this year, and it all came down to how much fertilizer we could put in and how well-drained the soil was in that field.

The rain also put everyone behind. Farmers in Coastal Bend normally finished harvesting cotton in late August or September 1st. But in early October, many farmers are still harvesting.

Buzek finished his cotton harvest in mid-September.

“Cottonseed prices are up from last year, which will help reduce ginning costs and maybe even give us a small discount,” he said. “And the cotton I had ginned ranked pretty well. I was concerned about the grade of the leaves just because of the conditions we were in, but it looks like everything is going way better than I expected. Yields are down, but the note is still there.

Now he’s trying to fix the ruts created by heavy equipment working in wet ground.

“I’m in the tractor right now, and just trying to beat the rain as usual this year. It’s relentless, ”he said in a telephone interview at the end of September. “We’ve had rain all week so we’re trying to do some fieldwork as long as we can. “

In his 12 years of farming, Buzek has never had one like this.

“It has to be the toughest year I have ever had. You try to get out of a hole, hoping it gets better. But that’s not the case, ”he said. “We’re going to have a hard time next year with the prices of everything. Our input and equipment costs are only increasing. So, it’s been a struggle, and it looks like it’s going to continue. “

Fertilizer prices have skyrocketed, with further increases scheduled for 2022. The costs of seeds, pesticides, equipment and fuel are also on the rise. And Buzek is worried about what the next few years might bring.

But for now, he will remain focused on the rest of 2021.

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