The Southern and Rolling Plains of Texas likely will harvest 3 million bales of cotton this fall, better than last year “but considerably less than it ought to be,” according to Texas Tech University agronomist Dan Krieg.

Krieg presented an overview of the Plains cotton crop at a recent flow/marketing meeting in Lubbock.

“For the fourth year in a row, we have something of a disaster in west Texas cotton,” Krieg said. “We had good moisture going into planting season and most growers planted irrigated acreage first. That was the wrong thing to do this year. We turned dry in May.”

Some cotton received only a fraction of an inch of rain from May until August.

“From Lubbock south, farmers never got a planting rain.”

Krieg said cotton farmers north of Lubbock, District 1 N, planted 850,000 acres. He expects them to harvest about 745,000. As much as 1 million acres of cotton in District 1 S, south of Lubbock, was lost to drought and hail damage. Planting was estimated at 2.85 million. Slightly more than a million acres was irrigated and 1.5 was dryland.

“We'll make from 2.6 to 2.65 million bales from the Southern High Plains,” Krieg said. “The northern area will make a little more than originally estimated and the southern area will make slightly less.”

Yields, even within a small area, are highly variable. “Within a section, with four irrigation circles, yield ranges from less than a bale per acre to three bales per acre. Some fields in the northern sector, with adequate irrigation, will push four bales. August and September weather was good for cotton growth.”

Farmers in the Rolling Plains will harvest some 800,000 acres of cotton, compared to only 400,000 last year.

“Yields are quite variable, depending on rainfall,” Krieg said, “but a 420,000-bale crop is likely.”

He expects better quality from this crop compared to last year, especially in the northern counties.

“In dryland cotton, micronaire is a little high but length is better than last year, close to 32. We saw a lot of 29 and 30 last year. Color and trash also look good, a 2 to 3 range for leaf.”

He said mike on 60 percent to 65 percent of the crop could range from 5 to 5.2. “But where we're harvesting more than a bale per acre, we have no real mike problems.”

Krieg said weather problems have taken from 1.2 to 1.3 million bales out of the Southern Plains. “This is four years in a row for disaster in this area, but, with continued good weather, we should make reasonably good quality and 2.6 million bales.”

rsmith@primediabusiness.com