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Texas cotton prospects ‘depend on location’

Location, location, location. Cotton conditions vary throughout the state. While some areas need rain, others are waiting for fields to dry. The good news is that it's better than last year.

Ron Smith, Editor

June 11, 2024

6 Min Read
Cotton emerging on the Texas High Plains. Crop conditions vary throughout the state. Shelley E. Huguley

“It just depends,” says Texas AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist Ken Legé, Lubbock, “on where you are as to what the cotton looks like.”

Legé, who recently took on the cotton specialist role after years working in various industry roles, says most of the cotton that's up “doesn't look too bad, but a lot is yet to emerge.

(Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)

“In the Panhandle, growers were able to plant on time. They've had some storms, but certainly not of the magnitude, duration, or frequency they had in 2023. I think acreage north of I-40 will be back up, similar to what we saw in 2021, around 350,000 to 400,000 planted acres. That’s a big change from last year when we had tremendous storms and a lot of abandonment, ending up with just a few thousand acres of cotton north of Amarillo.”

Further south

Legé moves down the map. “In the area between Lubbock and Tulia, in the Northern High Plains, cotton is mostly planted. Insurance dates were either May 31 or June 5. We’ve seen a few replants due to storms, but that area in general, particularly the eastern side, got timely rainfall to plant and to get early growth.”

The Western side of the Northern High Plains missed some of those early rain events. “Parmer, Hockley, Cochran, Yoakum, and Gaines counties remained dry late then got some planting rain. They don't have much of a base, but the crop is progressing,” Lege says.

He says about half of that crop has emerged and looks good but suffered from some triple-digit temperatures “that challenged cotton that had just emerged with seedlings laying right on top of that hot soil. I think it will get past that.”

Lubbock southward, Legé says the area from Lubbock south to Big Spring includes a high percentage of dryland cotton acres. “Even irrigated acreage has limited water capacity,” he adds.

Planting date in the area is either June 10th or June 20th. “They have some time to finish. Also, over the last 10 days or so (early June), the area received quite a bit of widespread planting rains. Growers did not have the base soil moisture, but they have some surface moisture to at least get them started.”

Legé estimates about 75% of the intended acreage has been planted in that southern area with about 25% emerged.

(Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)

“The cotton that’s up is doing quite well. In fact, the acreage at Lamesa, at our AG-CARES facility, looks about as good as cotton can. I hate to say that because it becomes a hail magnet, but that facility has some good-looking cotton. We still have a ways to go on planting.”

He said farmers were pretty happy about some unpredicted showers June 6 and more widespread rainfall received June 10 with hopes of more rain this morning. “We hope those rain events will help finish planting in that southern area.”

Too see rain totals for the region, visit: West Texas Mesonet (


Legé is optimistic about the overall prospects for West Texas cotton. “I'd say replants are at the lowest level in three or four years. Certainly, at this point, crop loss and abandonment are low, and that’s a refreshing change from the last two years when we saw a lot of prevented planting and a lot of abandonment early in the season.

“We see reason for a bit of optimism, but we know a lot of areas simply don't have the deep profile moisture necessary to endure the season.”

It’s West Texas, he says. “We do have chances of rain coming through here every few days; it looks optimistic. But if that weather pattern changes, it won't take long for much of the crop to take a bad turn. We could be looking at drought claims and abandonment late in the season. We hope that doesn't happen. But West Texas cotton farmers  are always prepared for such things every year.”


Further south, location also makes a difference, says Texas A&M AgriLife Extension State Cotton Specialist Ben McKnight, College Station.

“Overall, conditions are fairly good for much of the area from the Lower Rio Grande Valley into the Upper Coast, to the Brazos Bottoms and into the Blacklands Prairie, especially compared to the two previous years,” McKnight says.

In the Coastal area, cotton and grain farmers typically stagger grain and cotton planting to facilitate harvest. “This year, they planted it all at once,” McKnight says.

“The LRGV and Coastal Bend areas have been missing rains lately that other parts of the state have received. Still, after a crop tour in the Coastal Bend last week, cotton looks better than it did the past two years.

“We are beginning to see some cotton hurting from drought, and if they do not get rain soon, we will see drought losses. Most of the cotton in the LRGV is in cutout now, so what’s on the plant is what will contribute to yield.”

He says in the Upper Coast and into the Blacklands producers are getting rain, “depending on location.”


Some areas have been inundated with rain, enough to keep producers out of the fields.

Heavy rains

“Some portions of East Texas received as much as 15 to 20 inches of rainfall within a fairly short timeframe in the month of May. From College Station to Houston to the Blackland Prairie, rainfall is already close to the average annual precipitation amount.”


He says the Brazos Bottom has some staggered planting dates. “Some cotton is at matchhead square. Some planted not long ago in the Upper Gulf Coast is staggered from early bloom to four or five leaves.”

McKnight says Blackland Prairie soils with their high clay content are hard to dry out enough to get planters in  the field.

“Conversations I’ve had with producers with intent to plant cotton indicate many never had the opportunity to plant. That’s not the case across the board. The Blackland Prairie is a big region, from San Antonio to Dallas.

“I’m hearing the most lost planting opportunities from the Hill County area north of Waco. And many who did get planted have had other weather issues. Hail damage has ranged from minimal to severe.”

McKnight expects significant prevented planting decisions in some areas. The only other viable option, he says, would be to plant wildcat grain sorghum.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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