October has arrived and Coastal Bend farmers still have a good bit of fieldwork to complete. In early September the Texas Department of Agriculture extended the cotton stalk destruction deadline to Oct. 15.

It had become apparent that it would be impossible to complete cotton harvest before the end of September in the Coastal Bend area. Since this was a blanket extension of the deadline, no special request forms for individual field extensions are required up to Oct. 15.

Farmers who have not terminated cotton plants with a labeled herbicide or have unplowed cotton stalks in their fields after Oct. 15 will need to contact the local Texas Department of Agriculture office. They can provide information on obtaining an additional extension for late harvested fields and what protocol will be followed when making these requests.

Ginning of this season's South Texas cotton crop continues at a very rapid pace. The USDA's Cotton Classing Office in Corpus Christi grades all bale samples produced and ginned in the South Texas region. As of Sept. 27, that office had classed a total of 444,413 bales of cotton. The classing volume for the final week of September was 93,808 bales. That week's bale classes accounted for just over 21 percent of the season's total, indicating the busiest seven days of the 2007 season.

The quality of the lint from the South Texas cotton crop has been surprisingly good considering all the rain that this crop has endured after much of the bolls had started opening. But the weekly report from the Corpus Christi Cotton Classing office revealed that an increase in the "Light Spot" grade class had almost doubled the seasonal average for bale samples harvested earlier in the crop year.

Prior to the final week of September, 85.6 percent of the region's cotton classified within USDA's seven white grade categories. Only 12.5 percent were in the "Light Spot" grade category and 1.7 percent hit the "Spot" grades. But for bales classified between Sept. 20 and 26, the negative impact of repeated rains of this season cotton was beginning to show in the bale samples examined by the classing office. Bales falling into the white grades had declined by 14 percent, while the "Light Spot" grades increased by 11 percent and the "Spot" grade increased by 3.1 percent.

One surprise reflected in the weekly cotton grading report was a slight decline in the bark content in samples processed for the week. That number dropped by nearly 2 percent, but unfortunately another factor known as "Leaf Score," which is reflective of the content of cotton leaf fragments in the lint samples, was on the increase. That scale runs from 1 to 7 with the "7" score indicating the highest degree of leaf contamination possible. This was due of the taller cotton plants' lush, dense leaf canopy, which became increasingly difficult to remove with normal harvest aid chemical treatments. That was in part due to cooler night temperatures and frequent rain showers following the applications of the leaf drop and boll opening treatments.

As a result, 84.4 percent of bale sample classified with a score of 4 or 5 during the final week of September. That compared to the seasonal total that had been 75.9 percent with 4 or 5 leaf scores. Leaf fragments along with blades of dry grass and thin strips of cotton stalk bark all cause the yarn spinners and textile manufacturers problems due to increase cleaning of the lint and greater imperfections in the yarn. That is why the loan value formulas and cotton merchants discount bales with high "extraneous materials" content.

The real bright spot with this season's South Texas crop has been the length of the fiber, which is often referred to as "staple length." Abundant moisture throughout the growing season has provided for some exceptionably long and highly desirable fiber length. Hopefully, the premiums paid for longer staple will offset the penalties for spots and trash.