Cotton farmers try to beat incoming storm

FRESNO, Calif.

Cotton acreage almost doubled this past year in the Valley. The harvest started a few weeks ago and with a storm brewing, many farmers are now in a race against time.

Giant cotton harvesters have been running non-stop in the western Fresno County town of Helm. The cotton bolls have popped and they're ready to be picked.

Don Cameron of Terranova Ranch has been keeping a close eye on the weather. His crews have been working from sun up to sun down.

Cameron explained, "We knew the storm was coming in tonight. Everybody picked long hours trying to get the crop in. Right now it looks like the valley is 75-80% harvested."

Cameron knows the sunny blue skies will soon be replaced by clouds and rain, which could delay harvest for some farmers. "Our biggest concern for any un-harvested cotton is gonna be the downgrade in the quality of the lint due to the rain and the staining to the cotton."

The organic pima cotton from Cameron's field will be shipped to Italy and Japan for some high-end clothing lines.

Because the crop is organic Cameron can't spray defoliant to dry out the plants. But a big blue machine serves as Don's secret weapon. He said, "We have a thermal defoliator that uses propane. It heats the air and causes the leaves to wilt because we have to have dry leaves before we can pick cotton. We're the only grower in California that grows organic pima cotton."

And the only one with a thermal defoliator.

Cotton farmers aren't worried about the cold. Rain could delay the completion of harvest. They just don't want to see steady rain for a long period of time.

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