Texas expects big year for cotton

HARLINGEN — Texas farmers are bullish on cotton, with Texas growers expected to plant 6.9 million acres this year.

That’s a 22-percent increase over 2016.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued its Prospective Plantings report, and nationally USDA estimates 12 million acres will be planted in cotton.

About 58 percent of that acreage will be in Texas.

“This is very much in line with what we have been hearing from producers, ginners and industry experts,” Steve Verett, executive vice president with Plains Cotton Growers Inc. based in Lubbock, said in a press release.

Texas will increase its cotton acreage for 2017 by 1.25 million acres.

Verett said good soil moisture and a good crop last year were significant factors in growers’ decisions to plant more cotton in Texas in this year.

“The Rio Grande Valley is off to a good start. The Coastal Bend is off to a good start. We’ll be seeing cotton planted in Central Texas pretty quick, and then here in another month, we’re going to be planting on the High Plains,” Verett told Texas Farm Bureau.

Rio Grande Valley growers planted about 133,000 acres of cotton in 2016, and estimates place this year’s cotton acreage in the Valley as high as 180,000 acres.

Verett said cotton prices since 2015 have risen about 13 percent, in contrast to corn (down 8.5 percent) soybeans (down 5.5 percent) and wheat (down 32 percent).

Also impacting planting decisions in the Valley is the spread of the sugarcane aphid. The pest has hit grain sorghum producers hard, reducing yields and necessitating expensive pesticide applications.

Valley growers traditionally plant between 300,000 to 330,000 acres of grain sorghum each year.