Acreage and harvest trends were substantially higher throughout the U.S. Cotton Belt in 2010 than in the previous production season, providing a springboard for what many are hoping will be an even better 2011.

“Talking with Extension agronomists from across the nation, they’re anticipating an increase in acres in their respective states from 10 to 25 percent. We could get back to 2004-2005 levels in 2011,” says Guy Collins, University of Georgia Extension cotton agronomist. Collins gave a review of 2010 during the opening session of the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta.

“I think we hit our bottom as far as acres in 2008, and we’re coming out of that now, which is no surprise due to prices,” says Collins.

Yield trends were slightly higher in 2010 than in 2009, he says. “If you look back to 2004, yields have been fairly stable at around the 800-pound mark, which isn’t bad when you look at the entire Cotton Belt. You can see an upward trend from 2000 to 2004, but beyond that, it has been fairly consistent despite heat and drought from this past summer,” he says.

Looking at total bale production from 2004 up until now, it has followed a very close trend to that of harvested acres. Prior to that, it was more correlated to yield trends, he says.

In his region-by-region review of 2010, Collins says essentially every state in the Southeast increased its cotton acreage in 2010 compared to 2009. “Yields were appreciable, although not always what we wanted them to be. In the upper part of the Southeast — Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina — yields were highly variable, depending mainly on rainfall patterns. Drought hit hard in some areas of North Carolina and Virginia.”

Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed continues to be a challenge in this region, he says. “And as we move down in the Cotton Belt, we saw some potash deficiencies and resulting leafspot diseases. That was the case throughout the Southeast,” says Collins.

Moving farther South, Georgia had a good start to the season with excellent rainfall and good vigor in the spring.

“But that was followed by a hot and dry summer, primarily in July, which negatively impacted yields in some places, especially for those guys who didn’t have irrigation. The rains returned in August, which saved a few of us, and we were able to make a top crop in some cases, followed by excellent harvest conditions.”

In the lower Southeast, glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed is an ongoing battle, but growers are being more proactive about the pest, whether it be technology driven or through management practices, says Collins.