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Roundtable concensus: U.S. cotton overcomes poor start

Bad weather plagued cotton producers from California to the Carolinas this planting season, bringing abandonment, disease and below-average yield potential, according to a panel of cotton analysts speaking at the Cotton Roundtable in New York City, July 18.

Problem areas include West Texas, where 1.2 million acres were lost, North Carolina, which had its most horrendous start ever, and the north Delta, which was planted very late.

The analysts added that recent good weather has given back some yield potential. But harvest weather in September and October will be the key to getting it out of the field.

Here's a regional wrap-up of the roundtable, which was sponsored by the New York Board of Trade, Ag Market Network, Certified FiberMax Cottonseed and Farm Press Publications.


A couple of weeks of good weather could help late crops in the Southeast and Mid-South catch up and maybe even make a lot of cotton, according to O.A. Cleveland, professor emeritus, Mississippi State University. Between 6.8 million and 6.9 million acres of cotton is planted in the two regions.

Alabama has a mixed crop and a very late crop, according to Cleveland. “The north Alabama crop is coming on and growing very well and has potential to be a better than average crop. Central Alabama is even later, it's dragging a good bit and it's probably too late to make an average yield there.”

The crop in South Alabama and Florida “was standing still for a while, but it's finally gotten some good weather and is coming on quite strong and has the potential to be a better than average crop.”

Georgia, on the other hand, “has been blessed with good weather,” Cleveland said. “The crop, on about 1.4 million acres, continues to make good progress. South Carolina is down to 250,000 acres this year and will lose about 15,000 acres to 20,000 acres to abandonment.”

North Carolina “has been hit week after week with problems,” noted Cleveland. “They're down 90,000 acres this year because of last year's poor crop, and they've had the most horrendous start of any state. The Blacklands area have one gin that will not even operate this year because of abandonment, which could be as much as 80,000 acres. Because of the problems, there's no way that crop can make an average yield.”


The Mid-South is also working on a very late crop, the economist noted. “But in 1991, we had the latest-planted crop on record in the Mid-South, and it turned out to be a record-yielding crop at the time.”

Some areas are doing quite well, however. The Louisiana crop “is one of the better crops in the United States, statewide,” Cleveland said. “The Red River area is fruiting very well. We have good boll development. Across the state, we are looking at yields better than the five-year average.”

In Mississippi, 60 percent of the Mississippi crop was planted early and 40 percent was planted late, according to Cleveland. “The early cotton is making good progress for the most part.”

Hwy. 82 divides the good from the not-so-good in Mississippi, according to Cleveland. “North of Hwy. 82, the crop is uniformly, non-uniform. It's from ‘just coming up’ to ‘a little better than knee-high,’ and there are a lot of areas that are still wet. There is some excellent cotton south of Hwy. 82, and it's making good progress.”

Meanwhile, crops in Arkansas and the Bootheel “are now actually a bit dry and in need of moisture. There is some heavy land in Missouri that is struggling somewhat. The crops in eastern Arkansas are below average at this stage, but could catch up. There is a very good crop down toward Chicot County in Arkansas and toward Greenville, Miss.”

About a third of the Tennessee crop is very late and is beginning to need water and projects not to be an average crop, according to Cleveland.


A little over 6.1 million acres was planted in the Southwest this year, an area that includes Texas, Oklahoma and now, Kansas.

Texas cotton producers planted about 5.8 million acres this spring, about 200,000 acres more than last year, according to Carl Anderson, Extension economist, Texas A&M University. “Oklahoma cut back a little, to around 190,000 acres, and we have to count in Kansas now. They're growing fast and have planted about 125,000 acres.

“Texas is the land of persistent droughts and occasional floods, and this past week, (July 16) we had both in the same week,” Anderson said. “Most of the crop in the west Texas area is two to three weeks late, but in the last 10 days or so, the crop has improved tremendously.”

The area around Lubbock, which produces cotton on 3.6 million acres — about half of the cotton in Texas — has had about 1.2 million acres destroyed by bad weather or disease, according to Anderson. “That's a rather difficult start and unusual this year because the difficulty has been in our best, irrigated areas where yields are traditionally the highest. So there will be a big loss of cotton from that 1.2 million acres, at least 1.5 million bales.”

Anderson says it's unknown how many acres were replanted late, “but there are reports of between 300,000 acres and 400,000 acres. It's still an unknown factor. We'll have to have favorable weather in September and October to get our crop up to speed and have a reasonable yield.”

The good news is that cotton crops are progressing well in South and Central Texas and into the Rolling Plains area, according to Anderson. “These areas cover roughly 2.2 million acres planted. Most of that should be harvested and should easily average a bale per acre.”

The Coastal Bend area with 300,000 acres to 500,000 acres “could well have an above-average crop. Well over half of it is our better quality varieties.”

About 30 percent of Oklahoma's 190,000 acres is irrigated. The region is expected to produce around 155,000 bales of cotton. Kansas, which has tripled its acreage in two years to 125,000 acres this year “could produce 90,000 bales.”

Far West

“We're late out here also,” said Jarral Neeper, assistant vice president, call pool operations and economics, Calcot. “We got off to a late start in most of the San Joaquin Valley and in Arizona. But since the middle of May, the heat units have caught up.”

In the SJV, “we have a very mixed bag. I don't think growers are under any illusion that they are going to duplicate last year's record yields of 1,470 pounds. But there is cautious optimism that with a decent September and October, we'll make somewhere near 1,150 pounds to 1,250 pounds.

“Things have gotten very hot in the deserts of Arizona,” Neeper added. “Along the Colorado River, temperatures have been as high as 120 degrees and the lows around 95 degrees to 100 degrees. The heat is putting a little bit of stress on the plant right now.”

Overall production for California could come in at around 1.335 million bales of Upland, compared to 1.43 million bales last year and 325,000 bales of Pima, compared to 580,000 last year. In Arizona, “we're looking at 510,000 bales of Upland production, versus 516,000 bales a year ago, and about 8,000 bales of Pima versus 16,000 last year.

“So overall, the Far West will be down about 400,000 bales versus a year ago, primarily due to the slow start.”

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