Sometimes everything falls together perfectly for a cotton crop, and that might be happening in Texas this year. Granted, an unexpected freeze or other weather event could slow down this runaway freight train.
However, all signs look promising going into October when harvest begins in all areas except the Rio Grande Valley.
Aside from the Coastal Bend area, which sustained minor quality damage to its crop because of a tropical storm earlier this fall and isolated parts of the High Plains, the reports are positive in nearly every other region of the state.
The previous record for cotton production in Texas was 8.4 million bales in 2005. USDA’s September crop report projected 8.8 million for the state – a 400,000 bale increase.
Veteran observers are calling this the “perfect storm” scenario for Texas – high prices, good weather, unexpected demand and excellent yields and quality.
“At this time, we are on track for a record crop,” says Texas A&M professor emeritus Carl Anderson. “The only thing that could spoil it would be an early cool spell. That could dampen the yields north of Lubbock. As I understand it, those areas still look fabulous right now.”
Memorable Crop Season
Anderson says he can’t recall a time where so many favorable factors have come together in the same season.
“I am telling everybody to enjoy this while they can,” he says with a laugh. “It is a rare situation to have all these things happening at the same time.”
One early positive development for the state occurred in the Rio Grande Valley where cotton was harvested in a timely fashion and avoided being damaged by any hurricanes or tropical storms. Last year because of extreme drought conditions, there was virtually no cotton harvested in that region.
Anderson was traveling recently in central Texas and says he viewed “some of the most beautiful cotton I’ve ever seen.
“This field looked like snow in the areas where it was defoliated,” he says. “I personally know some farmers in the Blacklands area who are getting 1,500 pounds per acre. Not everybody is getting that, but we are still talking about a lot of record yields.”
Anderson says current prices on the New York futures market are at the dollar level because of low stock levels and production problems in other countries such as India, Pakistan and China. As for any specific factors contributing to the huge Texas cotton crop, he points to excellent technology and favorable weather.
“Right now, it’s a good question as to whether we’ll hit nine million bales or go higher in Texas,” Anderson says. “But I definitely think we have a chance. Let’s face it. We’re charting new ground right now.”
Fewer Abandoned Acres
Producer Rickey Bearden of Plains, Texas, who was recently elected as the new chairman of Cotton Incorporated, is trying to control his exuberance about the crop.
He is excited that the crop estimates are so high, but he also knows that there are “still some pockets that aren’t quite as good as the rest of the state.”
Bearden also points to the the fact that very few acres were abandoned this year – perhaps only two or three percent. In a normal year, the abandonment rate could be 10 percent.
“There are some excellent fields of cotton in the state and especially north of Lubbock,” he adds. “But it all comes back to very few abandoned acres, and there is so much cotton out there.”
He predicts that yield averages in the High Plains will be three-quarters of a bale on dryland to two-plus bales for irrigated acres. However, some areas may be in the four-bale range.
“I am ecstatic about the yields we’re getting,” Bearden says. “It gives the farmers in our state a chance to be optimistic about the future. And this certainly gives us a good feeling looking ahead to 2011.”
Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.