CHATTANOOGA, OK (KSWO) - The cold temperatures expected this weekend could create a big problem for local cotton farmers and their crops.
From October to December, cotton farmers work to harvest their crop, but this weekend's weather could put a huge dent in the amount they harvest.
"Depending on how hard the freeze is, it can lock the leaves on which will lower the grade of the cotton we have. It also can lock the bolls shut, which will make them never open and unharvestable," said farmer Adam Bohl.
If the weather gets down to around 27 or 28 degrees, Bohl said the unopened bolls of cotton will be destroyed. But there is a chemical he can spray on his crops that will force the bolls open, keeping them from being frozen and allowing them to harvest the cotton still, though that chemical also comes with its downsides.
"It will lower our yields because there are some bolls that will mature out and it will also cause us to have all of our crops open. We have about 3,000 acres to harvest with two machines. That's 30 to 40 days of actual running, which that can take three months to get that many running operational days," Bohl said.
So essentially, farmers are left with two choices. One is to spray their crops with the chemical that will open the bolls but they will end up with a smaller yield because the cotton wasn't ready to be opened. The other is to risk it with the weather and hope a hard freeze doesn't happen, but if it does, they could end up losing a lot more.
"We're just going to take our chances, with everything we've seen they're not calling for much below that 28 degrees and it changes every hour of course. But with the plants being larger and having more foliage, we think we may have another degree or two of protection because of the plants putting off their own heat," Bohl said.
Bohl says several things factored into making this decision earlier than expected. One is heavy rains earlier in the year that delayed planting and the other is the fact that the freeze is coming about two weeks earlier than it usually does. He estimates in all, that's more than three weeks that he was set back, but he said that's just the life of a farmer.
"If you've grown up around it, it's not anything new. It's just the normal way of business. You do the best with what you're given, you start out every crop as if it can succeed. As you go through the year, you work from there, depending on what the weather throws at you, you either push the crop a little harder and try to get that best yield or there are times you have to step back and limit your losses for the year," Bohl said.