Since the closing days of October, cotton harvest on the Texas High Plains has been advancing rapidly as cotton producers take advantage of nearly ideal weather conditions.
In just over two weeks the area has progressed from less than 25 percent harvested to having an estimated 60-65 percent of the area's cotton off the stalk and waiting to be ginned. With a 7-day forecast indicating more good weather next week, it appears many High Plains cotton growers are positioned to add thanks for a timely harvest to their Thanksgiving Day remembrances this year.
On the production side, this year's crop continues to look good from both a yield and quality standpoint. Dryland crop yields run the gamut from poor to pretty darn good, and may well end up looking fairly respectable, despite the challenges, when the final figures are released next Spring.
If there is any frustration/disappointment being felt it resides on the irrigated side of the ledger as growers watched cool September weather keep many fields from reaching their full potential. Overall it seems that many irrigated growers will remember the 2009 crop more for what might have been than for the yields that were ultimately be produced.
Official crop production estimates released from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) have been slowly trending down over the past few months. Early projections recognized the potential that was out there and indicated the area might eclipse the 4 million bale mark in 2009.
Those early expectations have been gradually eased back to the point that the November Crop Production report now projects the High Plains to produce 3.69 million bales.
Even though 2009 yield prospects have been downgraded, there is no doubting this year's crop is a significant improvement over the sub-three million bale crop produced in 2008.
On a brighter note there is some margin for error in the USDA survey results and it is possible that the 2009 crop will surprise everyone and come closer to the 4 million bale mark than is currently expected. More pounds are always a pleasant surprise and, coupled with the excellent quality recorded on bales ginned thus far, the High Plains could be a premium source for high grade cotton in the months ahead.
With just over 25 percent of the crop ginned and classed to date, quality measurements on the 2009 crop are positioned to keep it at the top of the charts and, hopefully, high on the wish list for textile buyers. Consistent quality continues to attract more and more textile buyers to the Texas High Plains as they search for high quality, high value cotton.
So far over 97 percent of the 2009 crop has received a High Volume Instrument (HVI) color grade of Middling (31) or better and more than 60 percent have measured Staple lengths of 36 (1-1/8 inch) or longer.
Micronaire has also been a pleasant surprise with the crop average falling right in the middle of the 2009 CCC loan chart's 3.7-4.2 premium Micronaire range.
Strong quality readings coupled with ample, but not unlimited, supplies are positives that the 2009 High Plains crop will carry into the 2009 Upland cotton marketing year.
These factors, added to recent reports of possible shortfalls in both Indian and Chinese production, should eventually bolster the attractiveness of the 2009 High Plains crop.
Regardless of what happens elsewhere, though, High Plains cotton growers know that the first step in supplying high grade cotton is to get their crop out of the field and into the bale.
From now until the end of November they will continue to take advantage of every minute of every day and be ready to meet whatever demand happens to materialize down the line.