Southwest cotton production incurred a significant reduction in 2008 as reduced acreage and lower yields cut more than 3 million bales from 2007 totals.

Weather problems hampered the Texas crop from the get go, said Extension cotton specialist Randy Boman during a region-by-region production update at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio.

Boman said West Texas and Oklahoma suffered an early delay from hot, dry windy conditions, followed by a severe drought that extended through late May and into early June.

“We had fair to good rainfall in mid-June, but storms damaged stands,” Boman said. Heat units were also out of kilter. In May, heat units were 14 percent above normal in the High Plains. In June, units were 22 percent above normal. July units were 4 percent below normal, August was 3 percent below, and September was 22 percent below normal.

“Excessive rainfall, ranging from 8 inches to more than 20 inches, hindered maturity,” Boman said. “And an October freeze across most of the region resulted in the highest bark content in many years.”

Coastal Bend farmers lost some 100,000 acres to drought and Hurricane Dolly took out most of the Lower Rio Grande Valley crop. “Still, we had reports of some record yields in the Brazos Valley,” Boman said.

Favorable fall weather in Oklahoma helped cotton maturity. “Immature cotton in the High Plains is indicated by lower micronaire at Lubbock and Lamesa.”

Bottom line for the 2008 Southwest crop showed a 1.3 million acre drop in harvested acres across Texas. Farmers planted 4.9 million acres, but harvested only 3.5 million.

In Oklahoma, 170,000 planted acres were off about 5,000 from 2007 and harvest acreage at 155,000 was down 10,000.

Kansas cotton farmers planted 35,000 acres in 2008, down 12,000 from 2007, and harvested 28,000, off 15,000.

Texas farmers averaged 731 pounds per acre, a 112-pound per acre drop from 2007. The 5.1 million bale production was off more than 3 million from a good 2007 crop. Oklahoma yield at 805 pounds per acre was off only 12 pounds from 2007 and total production at 260,000 bales was off 21,000.

Kansas farmers averaged 686 pounds per acre, a 47-pound increase from 2007. Production at 40,000 bales was off 17,000.

Quality took some hits, too. Color grade ranged from 41 in Corpus Christi to 31 in Abilene and Lubbock, and 21 in Lamesa classing offices.

Leaf was 3 across the board. Staple ranged from 36.9 in both Corpus Christi and Lubbock to 35.3 in Abilene and 36.4 in Lamesa. Micronaire was 4.7 at Corpus Christi, 4.2 at Abilene, 3.7 at Lamesa, and 3.6 in Lubbock.

Strength readings were: 29.7 at Corpus, 29.2 at Abilene, 29.5 at Lamesa, and 29.8 at Lubbock. Uniformity was 80.6 at Lamesa and Lubbock, 81.4 at Corpus Christi, and 80.3 in Abilene.

Bark showed a huge disparity from South Texas to the High Plains. In Corpus, bark rating was 4 percent; in Abilene it jumped to 14 percent and hit 46 percent in Lamesa. Lubbock was 60 percent. Percent grass was 4 percent in Corpus Christi and 1 percent in Abilene. Both Lamesa and Lubbock ratings held at zero.

Boman said Texas cotton growers are planting almost all their acres in transgenic varieties. Across the state, transgenics accounted for 90 percent of cotton acreage. That’s up from 87 percent in 2007. Roundup Ready Flex is taking a big chunk of Texas acreage in the High Plains and Oklahoma. In the Lubbock classing area, 77 percent of the acreage was in Roundup Ready Flex varieties. Oklahoma farmers planted 63 percent of their acreage to Flex cotton. The Abilene office recorded 41 percent of Rolling Plains farmers planted Flex varieties and Corpus figures show 23 percent.

Corpus Christi farmers also put 28 percent of their acreage in Liberty Link varieties.

Farmers are using Bollgard II varieties on 44 percent of the acreage in the Lubbock area, 40 percent in the Lamesa area, 85 percent in Oklahoma (classed at Abilene) and 40 percent in Corpus Christi. Those varieties include B2, B2RR and B2RF.

Boman said Southwest farmers may look to more technology to increase efficiency. “We expect more module pickers in the High Plains and see some benefit. The best quality comes from picker harvest versus stripper. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

email: rsmith@farmpress.com