At the halfway point of the 2009 U.S. cotton crop, analysts are saying the crop is shaping up to be between 12.42 million and 12.56 million bales, which is about 750,000 bales under USDA’s July 10 estimate. The analysts made their projections at the annual Cotton Forum in New York City on July 24.

“For most Mid-South and Southeast states, we’re in a little bit better shape than we were a year ago at this time,” said O.A. Cleveland, an economist and professor emeritus, Mississippi State University.

“The thing that sticks out in my mind is the size of the crop in each state. Arkansas, as it has been the last few years, is expected to be the largest producer, at around 1.1 million bales, followed by Missouri, at 637,000 bales. Mississippi and Louisiana have long been the heart of the Cotton Belt in the Mid-South, and now they’re the smallest of the cotton-producing states.”

Cleveland noted that USDA has rated 45 percent of the Mid-South crop in excellent to good condition, and 35 percent as fair, “so the overall crop is off to a better start in the Delta than last year and is certainly on schedule to be a better-than-average crop.”

Cleveland says Georgia is projected to be the Southeast region’s largest producer at 1.6 million bales, with North Carolina second, at a projected 600,000 bales. Overall, the Southeast is projected to produce about 3.1 million bales.

Cleveland estimates the size of the Mid-South crop at 3.3 million to 3.4 million bales and the total for the Mid-South and Southeast at around 6.4 million to 6.5 million bales. “This represents about 48 percent to 49 percent of the cotton grown in the United States this year.”

Carl Anderson, Extension specialist emeritus, Texas A&M University, says there is still quite a bit of uncertainty about the crop in Texas — which depends largely on adequate moisture falling on its dryland crop.

“Over 3 million acres of the 4.9 million acres planted in Texas are dryland. Because of dry planting conditions and extremely hot temperatures in early July, blowing sand and hail, I’m estimating that at least 1.35 million acres, or 27 percent of the 4.9 million acres planted, are apt to be abandoned.”

Anderson noted that the USDA’s weekly crop condition report indicates that one-third of the Texas crop is rated in poor to very poor condition, one-third is fair and one-third is mostly good, with a small percentage rated as excellent.

“Most of the Texas crop was planted in late May and early June, thus the dryland still standing will respond positively to the rain of the last two weeks (late July) thus adding more uncertainty to the future of our Texas crop.”

Anderson said that around 500,000 acres in the Coastal Bend area, or 10 percent of the total plantings in Texas, “have been zeroed out or nearly so, with about 600,000 bales lost.

“In west Texas, where about 80 percent of our Texas crop is planted, about 900,000 acres of dryland around Abilene are stressed but doing well. The 3-million acre area surrounding Lubbock is very mixed. Half of the area is irrigated and in very good condition. The other half is dryland and ranges from good to abandoned. Much of the crop was planted late.

“Those 100-degree temperatures in July a few weeks ago hurt or destroyed a large portion of the youngest cotton that was still alive. The young plants could not stand the high temperatures. Square and boll setting is slightly behind normal.

“In summary, the Texas crop still standing is mostly in fair to good shape considering over a million acres planted will be abandoned. If weather does provide some moisture soon, the late cotton will need warm weather in September and early October to reach full maturity. All of this adds to the uncertainty over the eventual size of the Texas crop.”

Anderson said Oklahoma’s 180,000 acre cotton crop “is in good condition, but Kansas growers planted only 35,000 acres this year as growers shifted back to wheat.”

Anderson estimates the Southwest states of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas will produce around 5 million bales.

Jarral Neeper, president of Calcot, in Bakersfield, Calif., says overall crop conditions in Arizona, California and New Mexico “are really quite good. The crop was generally planted on time under good conditions, although it was a little bit late. Heat unit accumulations have been equal to or greater than the long-term average and the crop is proceeding as expected.”

In Arizona, “The crop along the Colorado River is in excellent shape and the crop in central Arizona is doing quite well, even the double-cropped wheat and cotton. Southeastern Arizona is doing above average.”

California is another state which has seen dramatic acreage declines in recent years. Neeper says this year’s small crop “got off to a fantastic start and now we’re dealing with a lot of heat. In fact, on July 19 in Bakersfield, we set a record high for that date at 111 degrees.

“The crop is surviving and farmers are encouraged, but they’re not quite sure yet how the crop is going to react to this heat. Bug conditions in the Far West are really quite manageable. There are isolated areas south of Bakersfield where the lygus counts are pretty high, but farmers are fending those off quite well.”

While USDA pegged total California acres at 195,000 acres, Neeper pointed out that the pink bollworm survey “suggests total acreage is around 190,000 acres. Most of the acreage is in the San Joaquin Valley, but we have about 2,500 acres in the Sacramento Valley, mostly for seed production. We have about 6,500 acres in Imperial and Riverside counties in southern California. For the 181,000 acres in the SJV, around 125,000 acres are Pima and 56,000 acres are upland cotton.”

Neeper pegged the upland yield estimate for California at 1,425 pounds, which would produce a crop of about 190,000 bales. “Using the same yield estimate, we expect to produce about 365,000 bales of Pima, for a total production in California of 555,000 bales.”

Neeper says if the 140,000 acres of cotton planted in Arizona averages 1,400 pounds, the state would produce a crop of around 401,000 bales, which when added to about 2,000 bales of Pima would produce a total crop of about 403,000 bales. “So between California and Arizona, we have a total crop of 958,000 bales, with some potential to be a little bit larger.”

The New Mexico crop is progressing quite well, according to Neeper, who estimates the area could produce about 58,000 bales of upland cotton and 3,000 bales of Pima for a total production of 61,000 bales.

That would suggest a total Far West crop of 1.02 million bales to 1.06 million bales. Added to the Southeast/Mid-South estimate of 6.4 million to 6.5 million bales and the Texas estimate of 5 million bales, the United States could produce a crop of 12.42 million to 12.56 million bales.

The Cotton Forum is sponsored by the Intercontinental Exchange, Cotton Incorporated, Certified FiberMax, the Ag Market Network and Farm Press Publications.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com