With timely rain the rest of the growing season and an open fall, the 2011 U.S. cotton crop could climb as high as 15.7 million bales, according to a panel of cotton experts speaking at the Cotton Roundtable in New York City in July.

On the other hand, continued drought in Texas and/or unwelcome harvest weather in any region, could push production to 15.4 million bales, or lower. Earlier in July, USDA projected a U.S. crop of 16 million bales.

Far West

“We’re in pretty decent shape in California,” said Jarral Neeper, president of Calcot, Ltd. “We had excellent rainfall over the winter and snow in the mountains, which encouraged growers to plant a little bit more cotton. But it also put the crop a little bit behind schedule.

Neeper says weather this season has been better suited for people than cotton, “ but the crop is progressing. Two weeks ago, we had a nice warm up and the plants took off. I think growers are very optimistic.”

Neeper said Lygus “have caused some problems, and there has been a lot of spraying, but a lot of growers haven’t had bug problems at all.”

As of July 17, USDA had 65 percent of the California crop rated in good to excellent condition.

According to Neeper, the Arizona crop, “especially in central Arizona and along the river, is in as good a shape as it’s ever been. About 40 percent of that crop is in excellent condition, 40 percent is very good and 20 percent is poor. The portion of the crop in poor condition “was planted late behind the grain crop.”

Disease problems have affected cotton in the southeast region of the state, Neeper said. “The crop is just not taking off as quickly as the growers would like.”

Neeper says the New Mexico crop is progressing nicely “although farmers would like to see a little more water in the eastern New Mexico area.

Neeper estimates an upland cotton crop of 1.3 million to 1.4 million bales and Pima production of around 750,000 bales for the Far West, for a total crop of about 2.1 million to 2.2 million bales.

Southwest

Texas continues to suffer yield reductions from an ongoing drought, according to Carl Anderson, Extension professor emeritus, Texas A&M University.

“This year, the weather has been too dry and too hot for too long. For the last nine months, Texas has been mostly a desert state. The period from October 2010 through June 2011 was by far the driest such period on record for Texas, and June was not only the warmest June, but also was the fourth warmest month ever for the state.”

As of July 12, the U.S. drought monitor for Texas rated 91 percent of the state under extreme and exceptional drought stress. Anderson said the outlook for the cotton crop “is bleak.”

During the first half of 2011, rainfall across most cotton areas in Texas totaled around one to two inches, according to Anderson. “The six-month rainfall total is much less than in the drought year of 1998 when almost 42 percent of the planted acreage was abandoned mainly due to dry and hot weather.”

Anderson anticipates that as much of 50 percent of the 7.1 million acre Texas crop will be lost due to extreme conditions. The 7.1 million acres include roughly 5 million dryland acres, and about 2.1 million irrigated.

USDA’s July 17 report on crop condition has 33 percent of the Texas crop very poor, 24 percent poor, 31 percent fair, 12 percent good and none, excellent.

According to Anderson, dryland cotton in west Texas is essentially nonexistent with only 1.4 million acres of non-irrigated cotton expected to be harvested in the Coastal region and central Texas. “Potential dryland yields across this acreage are in the one-half to one bale per acre level.”

Anderson says about 3.6 million acres of dryland cotton, mostly in west Texas, is likely to be abandoned.

Irrigated cotton in Texas, estimated at 2 million to 2.5 million acres are also stressed because of limited water, record temperatures, high wind and blowing sand, Anderson said.

Irrigated cotton could improve with timely rain and moderate temperatures in late summer and early fall, Anderson noted. “In west Texas, irrigated cotton is relatively young and in the very early stages of preparing to grow bolls of cotton. Much of the irrigated crop is now making good to fair progress and scattered thunderstorms have appeared. Even a half inch rain would be beneficial.”

At this point in the season, Anderson pegs Texas cotton crop potential “in the 4 million to 5 million bale range, depending on weather conditions on irrigated  ground between now and the middle of October. Today my production estimate for Texas is around 4.5 million bales.”

Oklahoma planted 300,000 acres of cotton this spring, much of which has also been devastated by dry, hot and wind while Kansas has about 68,000 acres that is in mostly good condition.

Anderson says the Southwest could produce a crop of 4.7 million bales.

Southeast

O.A. Cleveland, professor emeritus, Mississippi State University, expects the Southeast cotton growing region to produce a crop of about 4.3 million bales, with an average yield of between 700 pounds and 750 pounds.

“Georgia was very droughty to begin with, although not to the extent of Texas,” Cleveland said. “They have had recent rains, but many are isolated and it’s caused an extremely spotty crop. You can have a lot of young cotton and a lot of old cotton in the same fields, which will without question affect yield.”

South Alabama suffered through the same drought and isolated rains, “and from central Alabama south, is very much like Georgia. It’s a very spotty crop and yields will be reduced.”

North Carolina planted the third highest acreage in the United States this spring, and has had good growing conditions. Remaining Southeast states of Virginia and South Carolina are below their trend yields.

Mid-South

Cleveland says the Mid-South could also produce a crop of 4.3 million bales, “with both regions together producing between 8.6 million and 8.8 million bales.”

Mississippi, Tennessee and south Arkansas “have good looking crops from the road,” according to Cleveland, “but the crops are late. A year ago we saw crops cutting out from the drought. This year, it’s not abnormal to go out in a field and not find a bloom. They’re reasonably-sized plants, they’re just so late.”

Cleveland says the lateness “can be made up. We do it every year. We’re seeing this in the Mid-South and Southeast. We’re going to need a very handsome fall if we’re going to harvest a good-sized crop. If this crop gets perfect or near-perfect conditions, we could go a million bales higher for both regions combined.”

The Cotton Roundtable was sponsored by Intercontinental Exchange, Ag Market Network, Certified FiberMax, Cotton Incorporated and Farm Press Publications.