A survey of the San Joaquin Valley has so far turned up almost 190,000 acres of Pima and upland cotton planted this season, and Earl Williams, president of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, is “tickled.”

Williams thought the Valley’s acreage would struggle this season to reach 150,000.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Pink Bollworm Program initial survey discovery of 190,000 is nothing to write home about considering a decade ago there were 1 million acres of SJV cotton. However, it is a pleasant surprise Williams hopes will lead to a resurrection of SJV cotton to perhaps an eventual 500,000-acre plateau.

“When the government’s initial (spring) estimate of 190,000 acres came out, I said no way. I predicted it would be closer to 150,000,” says Williams.

Even 190,000 is still a drop of more than 70,000 from the 263,000 acres last season.

Williams figures 110,000 of the 2009 crop is Pima, the rest upland. Roughly half of the Pima acreage is being grown by J.G. Boswell Co., in Corcoran, Calif.

Arizona growers planted upland cotton on 140,000 acres this season, up 5,000 acres from last year. American-Pima planted area at 1,000 acres is up 200 acres from 2008.

The larger than expected California acreage and the increase in Arizona acreage are attributed to the economic malaise in the Western dairy industry. Milk overproduction coupled with a significant drop in dairy product exports and the dramatic downturn in the economy have driven milk prices to the lowest level in years. This has resulted in lower demand for alfalfa and silage crops. Farmers are returning to cotton with this trend.

Bolstering prospects for the 2009 crop is the fact the crop has made good progress under ideal conditions, according to Mark Bagby, Calcot’s communications director. In late June both the California and Arizona crops were rated excellent to good. Lygus is a growing concern in the San Joaquin, and the crop progress is trailing historic norms. However, “blooms seem to be in abundance” as temperatures soared into the 100-degree range for a week in early July.

The rest of the U.S. continues to have difficulties, notes Bagby.

West Texas has gotten some much needed rain, but south Texas “could only charitably be called disastrous,” says Bagby.

The Delta crop seems to be feeling the effects of shallow root systems and high heat stress.

Globally, China may have planted less acreage than expected; the Indian monsoon has arrived; Pakistan seems optimistic about its crop; and the Central Asian states have fewer acres.

“Of course, it’s quite early yet and much can happen in the next two months, which are always critical to crop development,” notes Bagby.

But crop observers overseas indicate China’s acreage looks fairly good, though somewhat fewer acres were planted than most had anticipated, citing instead plantings to food crops.

India had some concerns about the monsoon arrival, but weather reports show it did indeed appear, and better yielding varieties could make up any shortfall.

“Pakistan’s acreage has been a bit disappointing the past two seasons, but looks very good now,” notes Bagby.

The former Soviet countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the like) planted fewer acres than in years past.

On the marketing side, there’s a definite lack of volume in current trading, says Bagby, but current activity has been “rather see-saw following nice gains from March to mid-May. Technically, the market looks like it is building support around the 55-cent level for Upland cotton as the summer doldrums start to take over.”

Bagby adds, “As has been the case for some time, outside influences seem to have more impact on cotton futures than the actual fundamentals of supply and demand. Market traders have noted when the dollar slips in value, cotton sales and exports go up. When the dollar rallies, business dries up. Other crops still seem to be getting a lot more interest.

“And then there’s that whole financial crisis thing which between lower incomes for folks, if not outright job losses, weak retail sales and concerns about too much inventory has made things difficult on textile suppliers from one end of the chain to the other.”

email: hcline@farmpress.com