Color and leaf grades for the 2010 cotton crop were exceptional in almost every region of the Cotton Belt, according to a report from the Agricultural Marketing Service, Bartlett, Tenn.

“Overall, the quality of the U.S. cotton crop has been on an upward trend thanks primarily to the large percentage of it now being grown in Texas (48 percent in 2010), as well as significant quality improvements in the Texas crop over the last few years,” said Robbie Seals, grading branch chief for USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, cotton and tobacco programs.

Ninety-three percent of the U.S. cotton crop was classed at a color grade of 41-32 and higher. “We may see that go even higher because it looks like the remaining million bales to be classed are going to be of high quality,” Seals said.

The average leaf grade, at 2.9, and extraneous matter, at 7 percent, were the lowest in five years. The micronaire average of 4.5 was the highest in the last five years and was up significantly in the Southeast and Mid-South. Strength of 30 grams per tex was the highest average since the advent of HVI testing. The staple average, at 35.4, was down slightly from 2009. Base quality and higher, at 55.2 percent, is up from 48 percent in 2009.

As of Jan. 4, USDA had classed 16 million bales of upland cotton, with expectations of another 1.1 million bales to be classed. Seals said 294,000 bales of Pima had been classed of an estimated 475,000 bales.

The final total of upland and Pima cotton classed is expected to be around 17.6 million bales, “which is a little less than what we had anticipated. We thought we were going to bump close to the 2007 crop of 17.9 million bales.”

Color grades were exceptional in almost every region, according to Seals.

USDA reported the lowest leaf grade average (under a 3.0) since USDA began separating out color and leaf. “It was lower in all regions, as much as half a grade in the Mid-South and Texas.”

Percent extraneous matter was also very low, 3.7, thanks in large part to significant reductions in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, Seals noted. Percent extraneous matter in the region was down to 7.6 percent from 30 percent in 2009 and around 50 percent in 2008.

Average micronaire in the 2010 crop was reported higher than usual, 4.54, compared to 4.2 in 2009. “We think that’s going to come on down a little bit as more bales are classed,” Seals said.

The Southeast experienced its highest mike crop in several years, with 32 percent of its crop in the discount range. Texas and California had very little high mike.