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The Feb. 14 Oklahoma State University Cotton Webinar updated growers on the status of the 2018 crop and planning for the 2019 season. Because of the wet fall and winter, there are expectations of many new acres planted to cotton from farmers unable to get winter wheat in the ground. That boost in cotton acres could give the U.S. a booming crop next year, which might give U.S. farmers a leg up on the world market. (Journal stock photo by Jennifer M. Latzke.)

Oklahoma State University Cotton Extension Specialist Seth Byrd hosted a Cotton Webinar Feb. 14, bringing pre-season updates to producers.

From mid-February on into March, farmers are starting to soil test for fertility and think about early season weed control, Byrd said. 

“We had quite a bit of fall rain,” Byrd said. “So a lot of the fertility that we might have put down earlier, is it still there? Soil test to be sure.” In the Altus, Oklahoma, area, there are some growers with 4,000 to 5,000 acres who are already out in the field putting down fertilizer, trying to get half of their anhydrous down in the last half of February, he added. 

As far as pre-season weed control, it’s really important that growers get good incorporation with any “yellow” pre-plant herbicides that they apply now through March, Byrd advised.

As far as the cottonseed supply for planting this season, seed salesmen are warning that production was lower in Texas in particular because of the wet fall and the trouble getting the 2018 crop out of the field. Many cautioned growers to get their preferred varieties booked as soon as possible because popular varieties and newly introduced varieties are already starting to see low availability.

This seed availability can potentially be compounded because many growers weren’t able to get their winter wheat seeded in the fall, and those idle acres especially in Texas and Oklahoma may be planted to cotton.

“We have a lot of new growers who weren’t reflected in the acre surveys,” Byrd said. “Acres are predicted to be up in 2019, but by how much remains to be seen.” 

Kansas

Stu Duncan, Kansas State University cotton specialist, gave a perspective on the Kansas crop. The state saw a very wet fall and winter, which means cotton farmers should have plenty of moisture to plant into, if they can get into fields.

“The first part of May is when we really get going,” he said. “The last estimates I saw were to expect a 3 to 3.5 percent increase in Kansas acres, which would put us over 200,000 acres.” Optimism is high, Duncan added, even with quite a bit of ginning of the 2018-19 crop left to go in the state. 

Duncan said he and Lucas Haag, the Northwest Area agronomist for Kansas State Research and Extension, are seeing quite a large number of new growers just dipping into the cotton crop. 

“With the release of the Enlist and Xtend cotton varieties we are seeing more growers,” he said. “Especially in the central part of the state, where we have more soybeans around, a lot of those are Xtend varieties.” 

Duncan said cotton varieties are starting to edge farther north into Kansas, with a planting study planned in the Great Bend/Barton County area just a little north of 38 degrees latitude. The study will run heat unit calculations and so far models predict farmers could raise a successful cotton crop eight out of 10 years, he added. And, with cotton gins in the state updating and expanding their equipment, the capacity in Kansas has risen significantly, Duncan said.

National Cotton Council

Jody Campiche, National Cotton Council director of Economic Services, echoed what Byrd and Duncan said regarding planting intentions.

“In our planting intentions survey we saw just a very slight increase in acres in Oklahoma and Kansas, but I think that increase will go higher,” she said. “The survey just goes out to people who already were producing cotton, the new cotton producers aren’t part of that survey, so we couldn’t capture them.”

With the moisture that the 2019 crop is going to be planted into, Campiche predicts lower acres abandoned across the Cotton Belt. That means the crop could range from 21 to 24 million bales.

“We will definitely have more cotton this year unless we have more major hurricanes and a drought,” she said. And there’s predicted to be a lot more cotton in the rest of the world, too, to compete with on the world market. In 2018 India’s acreage was down and production was really limited because of pest issues and bad rains. China production was down domestically. And Australia suffered a major drought this year and that may potentially affect the acres planted to cotton in the coming year. 

“We expect China to be importing more cotton in 2019 since they’ve sold their reserve stocks down to more maintainable levels,” Campiche said. “We could export 11 million bales to them in 2019 if we can resolve this U.S.-China tariff war. We do expect the U.S. to pick up more exports to China. But if this tariff continues, well Brazil is already taking some of our market share. And if this situation continues we expect Brazil to take it and keep it.” 

Globally, if the world is cotton short and the U.S. is cotton long that could give U.S. producers a price floor, she said.  

Ginning

Rex Friesen at the Southern Kansas Cotton Gin, Anthony, Kansas, provided an update on the progress of the 2018-19 crop through his facilities.

“Right now we are just shy of 40,000 bales with our two gins running 24-7 and we still have a lot of cotton to gin,” Friesen said. “We could gin probably 180,000 bales or so yet.”

While only a fraction of the Kansas-Oklahoma crop has been ginned in these facilities, quality grades have been down, primarily due to color of the cotton, he said. 

“We average about 49 cents loan rate, 3 cents below, due to color,” he said. “Leaf and bark have been high contenders. About half of the bales have had light bark in them, so you see a 3.5-cent ding here.” The really wet fall and winter kept the cotton standing in the field longer, which really affected its color, he said. But staple, fiber length, micronaire and uniformity have been good and that’s due to genetics, he said.

“We had ample rain late in the season, and that kept some cotton from shutting down,” Friesen said. “It’s hard to defoliate immature bolls.” Overall it has been a really good crop even if the lint suffered from the rains. 

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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