Over Labor Day weekend, the talk in the lower Coastal Bend farming community was centered around the unusually large amount of unharvested cotton acreage that remained in wet fields across the region.

During the past two weeks the area has experienced a bit of a drying trend. Although, the past two weeks have not been totally rain free, showers have been fewer in number, shorter in duration, and less intense. In early September, Nueces County farmers only had 40 percent of their cotton crop out of the field. Now that nearly three weeks have passed, cotton harvesters have made noticeable progress. Granted, that progress has been slow and not without difficulties for custom harvest crews and farmers operating their own harvest equipment. As one farmer stated, "This year every row picked was a struggle; nothing this harvest season was easy."

In the 15 days that followed Labor Day, the Nueces County cotton farmers managed to get another 40 percent, bringing the estimated harvest up to 80 percent complete. But getting the final 15 to 20 percent is likely to come at a slow pace even with cooperative weather conditions. That is due to the large number of picking machines owned by farmers in other cotton growing regions who have departed the lower Coastal Bend for their home farming area where cotton is ready to harvest.

That situation should give all locally owned cotton harvest equipment ample work until the final few fields in the Coastal Bend are harvested. Unfortunately, for those producers who own stripper harvest equipment rather than spindle pickers, the Coastal Bend had very few fields that were ideal for stripper-style cotton harvest this season. Much of the remaining cotton acres have stalks that are two large and loaded with regrowth of green leaves to allow for efficient stripper-harvest.

I have had a number of inquires following the feature article on John Deere's new cotton picker that makes round seed cotton modules while it continues to harvest cotton. In late August, I had the opportunity to view two of these machines operating in Nueces County fields. The article was prepared following my view of these machines. A number of photos taken of this new cotton harvesting system were reprinted in the September 20 issue of Southwest Farm Press. On page 20 of that issue is a story about the official unveiling of this new cotton harvesting system that John Deere provided for its dealers, farm publication journalists and agricultural lenders. That article provides some excellent insight into the speed, capacity and improved efficiency of these new machines.

One of the most frequent questions I have had about these new cotton harvesting machines is "how much will it cost?" That answer was also provided in a commentary by the Farm Press executive editor, Forrest Law, who covered the official unveiling of Deere's new products. No surprise that it is a six-figure number. Maybe, a bit shocking that the first number is almost a six. The exact amount quoted was $592,548. But that may not include dealer preparation costs or delivery charges. So, now we know. Also, I have had a number of inquires during the past week following my retirement as County Extension Agent, from regular readers of the weekly "Farm and Ranch Happenings" about the future of this article. Thanks to all those who have expressed their appreciations and concern. I particularly want to thank Mr. Lynn Dugger, who dropped by for a personal visit on this and other subjects. Mr. Dugger has been reading this column since it started, some 25 years ago. His statement was to the point. He indicated that he had not always agreed 100 percent with the views expressed in these articles, but he was very glad that I took the time to provide the local paper with a weekly story on farming and ranching and that is why he continued to subscribe to the paper. So, thanks to all, and I will keep writing as long as there is a demand.