For many growers the advancing harvest had begun to reveal a chink or two in the 2010 crop's previously pristine armor. With nothing definitive to pin it on though, growers throughout the area had been quietly wondering if they might be the only ones whose fields were yielding slightly less than they had expected based on pre-harvest measures.

This week's USDA Crop report indicates that these concerns were not isolated and that, overall, the crop was producing less cotton than had originally been estimated by producers and USDA field enumerators.

With no clear idea what, exactly, is responsible for the decline, it appears that most of the yield revisions were made to account for slightly reduced yield prospects in the region's typically reliable irrigated fields. On a yield per harvested acre basis, the average reductions applied to the High Plains crop in districts 1-N and 1-S were 19 and 66 pounds, respectively. 

On a percentage basis those changes reflect a 1.8 percent pull-back in the expected yield for district 1-N and a higher 8.7 percent pull-back in 1-S yields. While the revisions seem relatively modest at the acre level, multiplying them by the report's 3.6 million harvested acre total amounted to an overall reduction of 420,000 bales. The changes resulted in the High Plains forecast dropping from 6.16 million bales to the November projection of 5.74 million bales.

High Plains harvested acreage figures remained unchanged in the November report, as is often the case, even though storms that crossed the area in early October should eventually add to the region's abandonment total.