West Texas cotton farmers, looking at what could be the best and biggest crop they’ve seen since 1949, need a good spate of hot, dry weather through September and into October to mature bolls that took advantage of ample moisture throughout the growing season.

The South Texas crop, meanwhile, is pretty much made, says Bob Weatherford, Gulf Compress in Corpus Christi.

“It’s going to be a good year,” Weatherford said during a recent National Cotton Council meeting in Asheville, North Carolina. “In some areas of South Texas, farmers have the best crop they’ve seen in years. The area around Corpus will make a good cotton crop. From here on down into the Lower Rio Grande Valley, farmers are harvesting a good bit of two-bale cotton. I’ve heard of a few with three bales per acre, 1200 to 1300 pounds.”

He said cotton farther east, closer to Houston, might need another September rain to finish it out.

“This is the second year in a row we’ve made a really good crop (in South Texas),” Weatherford said. “The biggest year we ever had was 130,000 bales. We may be looking at 170,000 this year.”

He said valley growers could push 330,000 bales.

“Quality in the Corpus area has been extremely good so far,” he said. “Staple and mike are both holding up. I have not heard of a weak factor in grading so far. As we get later into the ginning season, we’ll see a little drop in quality, but overall this is a good crop.”

Weatherford said acreage across the South Texas cotton producing area was up in 2004.

The Southern Plains also looks promising.

“A lot of my area, in the Southern High Plains, needs more heat units,” said Woody Anderson, National Cotton Council chairman of the board and a Colorado City farmer.

“We’ve had ample rainfall and have the potential to make a record crop.”

Anderson said growers have been concerned about unusually low August temperatures.

Wendell Tucker, a cotton warehousman from Quannah, Texas, in the Texas Rolling Plains, said he couldn’t remember a wetter, cooler August. “I don’t think I ever remember rain in August,” he said. “Usually July and August turn very hot and very dry. This year, it was wet and mild and that may have hurt the cotton. We need hot dry weather to finish this crop. If we get that in September and October, we’ll have a big cotton crop.”

Anderson agrees. “If we can get some hot weather, we will continue to have excellent prospects over the High Plains and the western part of the state,” he said.

Anderson recently drove to Albuquerque for a meeting and noticed some of “the best dryland cotton I’ve seen in years.”

He said cotton farmers will need a big crop to offset low prices and high production costs. “Based on anticipated price, there will not be any money in this crop,” he said. “And we have a lot invested in it. We had a good spring so farmers put a little additional in the crop, fertilizer and other management inputs,” he said.

Anderson said the good crop in South Texas makes three of the last four years with good yields. In New Mexico, the irrigated acreage looks good and in Oklahoma, the dryland cotton may need another rain.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com