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Once over 1 million acres, California cotton acreage continues to fall amidst poor grower prices and reduced water availability

Todd Fitchette, Associate Editor

August 24, 2020

1 Min Read
Pima cotton remains the most popular type planted in California as total acreage continues to decline. California's total cotton acreage fell to well under 200,000 in 2020 due to poor grower prices and reduced irrigation supplies.Todd Fitchette

Cotton acreage in California is down significantly from the previous year. Poor grower prices and water availability are largely to blame for the decline in a crop that serves as a good rotation to processing tomatoes.

Pima varieties remain the most popular among growers at nearly 146,000 acres statewide, compared to 25,645 acres of Upland. Still, this is down 28 percent from the previous year, according to the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association. Overall cotton acreage is also down 28 percent to just over 187,000 acres.

Kings County remains the most popular location to grow cotton in the state, with nearly 87,000 total acres. Of this, just over 77,000 is in extra-long staple varieties.

ELS cotton has long been a popular type for California growers as the weather favors the longer-season varieties and soil conditions on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley can push Pima yields nearly as high as those of Upland varieties. Growers who can achieve such yields tend to do better under pricing that can favor the ELS varieties.

The soil types and climate conditions that tend to favor Pima production include Kern at 9,215 acres this year, Kings at 77,170 acres, Fresno at 31,905 and Merced at 26,305 acres.

Most of California's cotton production remains in the San Joaquin Valley. Just over 171,000 acres of cotton is grown there this year. The Sacramento Valley has just over 3,000 acres of Upland varieties while the low deserts of Riverside and Imperial counties have just under 13,000 acres of Upland cotton this season.

Cotton harvest in the low desert regions of the state will begin soon as growers there prepare to plant winter vegetable crops as the seasonal transition of produce moves south from the Salinas Valley.

About the Author(s)

Todd Fitchette

Associate Editor, Western Farm Press

Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.

Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico. 

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