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.

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.