The good news for cotton growers in the Southwest was that cotton in 2012 was less drought stressed than in 2011.

The bad news is the drought was still plenty bad, and it came with some other weather related calamities, primarily an Oct. 8, freeze that significantly hurt yields in West Texas.

In Oklahoma and Texas, growers were forced to abandon more than a million acres of cotton.

In Oklahoma, for example, cotton growers only harvested about half the acres they planted in the spring. As expected, yields were low on the remaining 175,000 acres, producing only 411 pounds per acre.

In Texas, by far the largest cotton producing state in the country, the news was only marginally better. There, growers harvested 4.9 million acres, but still managed to barely make a bale an acre, coming in with a statewide average of only 539 pounds per acre.

In the usually highly productive Rolling Hills and High Plains areas of Texas, 60-70 percent of planted acres was not harvested. These areas got the double punch of drought and the Oct. 8, freeze, which basically shut down production in those areas of the state.

In New Mexico virtually all the cotton is irrigated and the state missed some of the heat and drought problems and freeze problems of their neighbors to the east.

Growers in New Mexico produced yields in the two bale per acre range, but the small acreage there did little to bolster the overall production of what is the country’s largest cotton producing region.


In Georgia, where growers harvested 1,285,000 acres of cotton, or about half the Southeast total, the state average topped 1,000 pounds of lint per acre.

Georgia Consultant Jack Royal says this was one of the best, if not the best cotton crop he’s seen in and around Leary, Ga., during his career.

North Carolina continues to be the second largest cotton producing state in the Southeast, but that ranking is dwindling rapidly. Last year cotton acreage in the state was down about 120,000 acres and most growers contend acres will decline significantly again this year.

Last year growers in North Carolina averaged just under 1,000 pounds per acre, and when all is said and done with ginning, they might reach the 1,000 pound mark. Despite cuts in acreage North Carolina growers still harvested about 580,000 acres of cotton.

Florida and Alabama combined to produce about a half million acres of cotton and together averaged about two bales per acre — a little more in Florida and a little less in Alabama.

Target spot, which first occurred in Alabama in 2011, showed up in both states last year and likely contributed to some yield loss in 2012.

Among the Southeast states, Virginia produced the lowest acreage of cotton, but the highest yield.

Veteran grower Mike Griffin in Suffolk, says the 2012 crop surprised him in terms of how good it turned out to be. “I knew we had a good crop of cotton, but I was shocked when we started seeing the final yields,” he says.

Last year Virginia growers harvested 85,000 acres of cotton, down from 2011 totals and down significantly from 100,000 or more expected prior to planting last year’s crop.

Despite planting fewer acres, Virginia growers averaged 1,045 pounds per acre last year.

South Carolina harvested about 300,000 acres of cotton and probably had the widest variation in yields from one part of the state to another among the Southeastern states.

A lot of that variability says Luray, S.C., grower Bud Bowers is likely due to extreme dry weather at planting time in some parts of the state.

“We had the hardest time we’ve ever had getting our cotton planted. We’ve got irrigation on most of our cotton land, but we still didn’t have enough moisture to get a uniform crop planted when we wanted to plant it,” Bowers says.

Despite the delays at planting time, he says the 2012 crop was one of the best he’s produced.