Fiber quality of the 2007 High Plains cotton crop looks to be one of the best and may be the second largest crop in history, according to Kenneth Day, area director for the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service classing office at Lubbock.

“Thus far, 2007 promises to be one of our best for fiber quality and quantity,” said Day.

He estimates the Lubbock facility will class 3.7 to 4.0 million bale-samples this season, up from 3.2 million classed in 2006. “These samples will come from all of the Texas Panhandle from 10 miles north of Lamesa to the Texas/Oklahoma-Panhandle.

“Currently we’re classing about 45 to 50 thousand samples per day on our 40 HVI stations. As of December 6 we had classed 1,832,862 bales compared to 1,686,607 classed by this date in 2006.

“Thus far the fiber quality of the crop has been very good. Average values for fiber length, 36; uniformity, 80.6; and strength, 29.6. These are almost identical to those of the 2006 crop,” Day said.

He also made other comparisons.

Mike values so far are averaging 4.1. Last year’s value was 3.8. Color is averaging 11 to 21. In 2006 color averaged 21 to 31.

“Trash content is that percent of surface area that is not lint. This year’s percent is averaging 0.20, significantly lower than last year’s crop value of 0.35. Leaf grade is also better, running 2 compared to 3 last year,” Day said.

Extraneous material (mostly bark) is 1.4 percent. Last year’s crop was 26.2 percent.

Because so many factors — genetics, growing conditions, weather, pre-harvest chemical applications, harvesting, storage conditions, and ginning — the quality of a crop can vary greatly from year to year. However, trends in some fiber characteristics can be manifested over time when the data are obtained from a large area such as the High Plains. This is particularly true with fiber characteristics that are predominantly genetically controlled and not greatly influenced by growing conditions. Such characteristics are fiber length, strength, and micronaire.

“To determine the recent trends in these fiber characteristics over time we plotted the season-average data for 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 data through Dec. 6,” Day said. “And we are happy to report the trend for these three characteristics was toward ‘improvement.’

“These improvements include: fiber length from 34.23 to 35.97; fiber strength from 28.48 to 29.62; micronaire from 3.62 to 4.08.”

Uniformity fluctuated somewhat over the four-year period and did not show a definite trend.

Levels of trash and extraneous material and fiber color are principally a function of weather conditions, primarily rainfall, during the period from September until harvest is completed. This was quite evident in the comparison of the 2004 data with the 2007 data.

In 2004 the crop was exposed to “much-above-normal” rainfall during the harvest season. Color was 41; trash, 0.60; leaf grade, 4; and extraneous material, 53.1 percent.

“Through December 6, the current crop had not been exposed to any significant rainfall during harvest season, and the readings for these four characteristics were very good: color, 11 to 21; trash, 0.20; leaf grade, 2; and extraneous material, 1.4 percent.

“Unfortunately we have had rain in some areas since December 6, and that could have a negative effect on color grade,” Day said.