Last year was a wild ride for cotton growers, but unfortunately Mother Nature was driving the bus and out of control.

Speaking at the Beltwide Cotton Conference, University of Florida Scientist David Wright says, “We started the year with high expectations and by planting time historic high prices further fueled this enthusiasm.”

Wright says U.S. cotton growers planted 14.7 million acres in 2011 — more than two million acres more than projected by USDA planting intention surveys.

When all the accounting is done, U.S. cotton growers will likely end up losing more than 5 million acres of cotton to weather-related problems.

Despite record high prices and near record planted acreage, U.S. growers will produce less cotton than they did in 2010 — perhaps as much as 2 million bales less.

It’s not unprecedented for growers to lose a million acres or so over the past 20 years to weather. However, losing five million acres is unprecedented, Wright says.

Thanks to extremely high yields in California and Arizona and average to good yields in parts of the Mid-South and Southeast, cotton growers will end up with a respectable yield of more than 770 pounds per acre.

The 2011 season got off to an inauspicious start with the record flooding along the Mississippi River. Blowing up of a levy got national attention and created an early season nightmare for growers in Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Wright says in some of the hardest hit areas in the Delta growers faced in one season crop losses to flooding, drought, heat, windstorms, hailstorms and even an earthquake.