The Texas cotton crop is setting up to be a basket buster, according to experts speaking at the Ag Market Network’s June teleconference.

According to Jay Yates, risk management specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, conditions are still a little dry in central and east Texas, but overall crop condition and stand establishment across the state are above average.

According to Yates, the state had planted around 98 percent of its intended cotton acreage by early June. According to USDA’s report on crop condition, 96 percent of the Texas cotton crop is listed fair to excellent, with only 4 percent rated poor, and zero rated as very poor.

In addition, Yates says there appears to be far less abandoned acreage in Texas than usual. “Unless we get a lot of hail, we’re probably going to stay that way. The last time we had a year like this was in 2007, when we had only 3 percent abandonment in our dryland crop. In 2009, abandonment in the dryland crop was in the 40 percent to 50 percent range.”

Yates says Texas growers “have been extremely disappointed in the alternative crops they’ve planted, such as sunflowers and grain sorghum. Across the board, a lot of people are going back to cotton. Although we had a good rainfall in our wheat in the High Plains, low protein levels have made it nearly worthless. A lot of farmers saw what was happening with the wheat, cut it for silage and planted no-till cotton in the stubble.”

When you put the good conditions for growth together with timely planting and reduced abandonment, it could add significantly to the anticipated size of the 2010 U.S. cotton crop, which USDA has pegged at 16.7 million bales. “I could put just our four crop reporting districts around Lubbock at 8.2 million bales alone,” Yates said. “We’re poised to produce at least 50 percent of the U.S. crop.”

Texas A&M Extension economist Carl Anderson says preliminary indications are that Texas producers have planted 5.6 million acres to cotton this spring, versus 4.7 million acres in 2007. “With a small abandonment, we’re looking at a Texas crop that could get to 8.5 million to 9 million bales.”

Anderson noted that with cotton off to a good start in the Delta and Southeast as well, USDA’s early projection of 16.7 million bales “could grow without any problem into the 17 million to 18 million bale range, which is 5 million to 6 million bales bigger than last year.”

A large crop “is needed to supply the world numbers,” Anderson said, with foreign production showing an 18.6 million bale shortfall to foreign consumption. “We have a good strong outlook going into our export market. We have several bullish factors under the market today that we didn’t have a week ago. We have decertification of a large number of bales, which means that cotton is now moving into the market.

“The export market was excellent this week, with USDA projecting that the United States will export at least 37 percent of the world exports, which are around 36 million bales, which would easily keep us in that 13.5 million area, which is about 8 percent more than last year. We are competing and we need to be.”

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com