The Texas High Plains 2008 cotton crop will not match the 2007 crop and will be smaller than earlier predictions.

“The United States Department of Agriculture crop production report for November called for the High Plains area to produce 3.41 million bales, down from the previous month's estimate of 3.57 million bales. The estimate released August 12 was for 3.67 million bales. As usual, the weather is the main culprit,” said Shawn Wade, Communications Director with Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Wade said the reasons for a declining High Plains crop estimate can be traced to the start of the 2008 growing season. “The weather was persistently dry and windy and provided little planting moisture. Those conditions led to failure of approximately one million acres of mostly dryland cotton that never came up and a smaller percentage of irrigated acres lost to hail or blowing sand.

“In addition, during the growing season the area lost several hundred thousand acres from scattered hail events and other causes. Altogether an estimated 1.32 million acres of cotton were abandoned on the High Plains,” Wade said. “And most of the 1.97 million acres of cotton that remained were classified as being ‘fair’ to ‘good’ with very few acres garnering an ‘excellent’ rating.

“Despite the challenges, by mid-season things appeared to be turning around. Timely rains enabled the remaining crop to set abundant, but late, bolls. All that was needed to make a pretty good crop despite a disastrous start was a little help from Mother Nature.

“Unfortunately, the desired late-season weather never materialized. The end result will be a 2008 crop that is some 2 million bales smaller than the crop produced on the High Plains in 2007 due to the significant difference in harvested acres this year compared to 2007,” Wade said.

“There is good news and bad news about the quality of the cotton crop through the last week in November, 2008, compared to the 2007 crop for the same period,” said Kenneth Day, area director for the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service classing office in Lubbock.

“The good news is fiber length and strength measurements are higher than those of last year's crop. The average fiber length in 2007 was 36; in 2008 it has averaged 37. Fiber strength in 2007 was 29.60, this year the average has been 29.95.

“The bad news is most of the other fiber characteristics were off in 2008.

“Thus far in 2008, 37 percent of the micronaire samples have been in the discount range of 3.4 and lower and only 35 percent has been in the premium range, 3.7 to 4.2. Overall average has been 3.7. In 2007 only 11 percent of the bales were discounted for low micronaire, and 40 percent were in the premium range. Overall average was 4.1.

In 2008 the average percent barky has been 50 percent. In 2007 it was only 2 percent.

Leaf trash was up slightly in 2008, averaging 3.3 versus 2.5 leaf in 2007.

“The lint color grades in 2008 have been slightly grayer than last year. The 2008 crop has 83 percent of color grades in 21 and 31. In 2007, 91 percent of the bales had color grades of 11 and 21, about one grade higher than the 2008 crop.

“Harvesting the 2008 crop began somewhat later that it did in 2007. As of November 27, 2008 we had classed 851,116 bales. Last year by that date we had classed 1.420 million bales,” Day said.

“Cotton heat units from August 1 through October 22 were the lowest recorded at Lubbock since 2004,” said Randy Boman, Extension Agronomist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service at Lubbock. “The heat unit deficit, excessive rainfall in September and October, and an early freeze, are largely responsible for the unusually high number of bales with reduced micronaire, lower color grades, high bark content, and a delayed harvest.”

“Based upon what we have noted in harvesting our variety trials, producers can probably expect reduced yields in many areas,” Boman said. “They can also expect earlier-maturing varieties to yield higher than the later-maturing ones.”

Boman mentioned a bright spot among all the bad news. “As a result of the high rainfall amounts during the fall, many producers will have excellent subsoil moisture for next year's crop.”