When it comes to cotton this season in Quay County, farmer Herman Lopez put it succintly. “There ain’t any, “ said Lopez, one of the leading cotton producers in Quay County.
Lopez said the fact is that the ground is so wet that cotton farmers are unable to get into the fields to harvest the mature cotton balls which have been getting soggy with recent rains. “We can’t get into the fields to strip it,” said the cotton farmer.
Lopez’s brother Albert said the moist cotton while not good, wasn’t completely out of hand yet. He said if the moisture continues the brothers could be in trouble. He said the cotton will probably already lose grade and because of the wetness, it is already starting to come out, “and if we get snow it will probably string out.”
However, he said that the current forcast has a warm trend moving into the area and he feels it should be sufficient to enable them to harvest what cotton is available on their property north of Tucumcari where they have 160 acres in cultivation.
The Lopez brothers usually have more cotton planted, but because of a lack of water this year at Conchas Lake which is the usual source of irrigation water for their crop they were forced to scale down from their usual 3,000 acres in cultivation to the smaller plot which could be watered by well water.
According to the New Mexico Agricultural Statistics Service, two-thirds of its 31 stations are reporting above-normal rainfall for the year, with significant increases in eastern New Mexico counties. Among the leaders is Tatum, which rose from its normal 15.5 inches to 32.3 inches through mid-November. “It’s been an unusual year,” said Rex Kirksey, superintendent of New Mexico State University’s agricultural science centers at Tucumcari and Clovis. “We’ve had over 30 inches of rain at Clovis this year. That’s the wettest year since we started keeping records in 1950.”
Normal rainfall for this time of year is about 17 inches.
According to Kirksey Eastern New Mexico was experiencing a typical year until June when steady rains rolled through the flat plains country, he said. When soaking rains arrived in October and November, it was both good and bad for local producers. “It’s been too wet for cotton harvesters to get into the field, and some of the wheat that is normally planted in October is still not in,” Kirksey said. “On the other hand, growers have high expectations for next season because we have so much soil moisture at this time.”
Quay County Extension agent Pete Walden agreed with Kirksey regarding the promise that the moisture has for local cotton producers. It’s hurt it for this year,” said Walden, “but next year is look very good.”