Cotton experts are projecting a U.S. crop of 18.7 million bales to 18.85 million bales at the halfway point of the 2010 U.S. growing season. The projections are based on good overall growing conditions across the Cotton Belt and a bumper crop developing in Texas.

Analysts provided the outlooks at the Cotton Roundtable in New York City.

Southwest

According to Carl Anderson, Extension economist, professor emeritus, Texas A&M University, the southwest region of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas could produce as much as 10 million bales of cotton this season.

The lion’s share of the production is projected to come from Texas, where the state’s dryland crop is so far exceeding expectations for both yield and acreage. “At this time, the stage is set for the Texas crop to be on the high side,” Anderson said. “Moisture conditions in the dryland crop are nearly as good as on irrigated land. USDA’s weekly crop condition reports over the last two weeks have indicated that nearly 75 percent of the Texas crop is in good to excellent condition. A year ago, about a third of the crop was rated in poor condition, a third was rated fair and a third was rated as good.

“Given the bright outlook for Texas cotton, I expect this year’s harvest, assuming a 5 percent abandonment, to be around 9.5 million bales, which would be a record crop. Good weather will be boosted by new varieties that can easily yield 3 bales to 4 bales per acre on irrigated land. With these moisture conditions, dryland cotton could do 1.5 bales to 2 bales per acre.”

There’s still a good bit of season left for the Texas crop, Anderson stressed. “Much of the crop in the southern High Plains was planted in May and early June. So, adverse weather, like several weeks in a row of 100-degree temperatures or possible early cool temperatures in September, could reduce the crop size substantially from what we’re seeing now. On the other hand, continued good growing conditions could push the Texas crop to over 10 million bales. Watch Texas crop condition reports very closely over the next six weeks for any changes, particularly on the negative side.”

Oklahoma cotton producers planted 210,000 acres of cotton in 2010, 5,000 more acres than last year, “and their crop is in mostly good condition. Kansas planted only 36,000 acres in 2010.”

In 2009, 1.5 million acres, or 30 percent, of 5 million acres planted in Texas was abandoned, leaving only 3.5 million harvested acres, Anderson noted. “We had a very dry, tough year last year and produced only 4.6 million bales.”

In 2007, Texas growers produced 8.2 million bales on 4.7 million harvested acres. In 2005, Texas produced a record 8.44 million bales on 5.6 million harvested acres.

Mid-South and Southeast

“We are off to a fabulous start this year in the Southeast and Mid-South,” said O.A. Cleveland, professor emeritus, Mississippi State University. “The crops look good. There are some dry spots in places, particularly in Louisiana, where they are in the midst of a fairly significant drought.”

Cleveland estimates Southeast cotton production at 4.1 million bales to 4.2 million bales, compared to 3.4 million bales in 2009. The acreage increase in the Southeast over last year is about 600,000 acres, with much of this coming in Georgia, which increased plantings over last year by 225,000 acres to 230,000 acres.

Cleveland said dry weather has affected dryland crops in the Southeast, “but those with irrigation are doing well. Heat units being accumulated are making up for earlier problems they may have had.”

The Mid-South increased cotton acreage over last year by only about 200,000 acres, with half of the increase coming from Mississippi. “Mississippi has been a little bit dry, but west Tennessee, the Bootheel of Missouri, parts of Arkansas and north Mississippi have received sufficient moisture so far, and those crops are looking good.”

Cleveland estimates Mid-South production at 3.7 million bales, which would be 1.1 million bales higher than last year. The increase would come on a substantial increase in projected yield.

Crop conditions are variable, noted Cleveland, “especially when you get to the Hill area of Mississippi. It’s mid-July, and we’re already blooming out the top in several places. But overall, we expect some fairly significant yields based on crop conditions.”

West

Jarral Neeper, president of Calcot, Ltd., says the far western states of Arizona and California “are off to a pretty good start this year. In California, we had some nice rains, a lot of snow over the winter time. We were a little cooler this year for quite a while. It’s only been recently that we’ve turned extremely hot.”

The weather has brought more insect pressure than normal, according to Neeper. “We have some real problems with yield potential in California, particularly in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley.”

Still, increased acreage in the state “is going to result in a larger crop.” Neeper says upland acreage increased over last year from 71,000 acres to 125,000 acres, while Pima acres increased from 120,000 acres to 175,000 acres.”

Neeper adds that the Arizona cotton crop “is off to a really good start. They’ve increased acreage from 145,000 acres to 185,000 acres. They were behind schedule in the beginning, but they’ve caught up quite nicely. Generally, the crops are above average.”

Neeper projects overall production in California, New Mexico and Arizona to be somewhere between 1.4 million and 1.45 million bales.”

An archive of the roundtable is available at http://www.agmarketnetwork.net. The Cotton Roundtable is sponsored by the Intercontinental Exchange, Certified FiberMax, Cotton Incorporated, Ag Market Network and Farm Press Publications.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com