Cotton analysts are projecting a 15.8 million bale U.S. cotton crop this season, 1.2 million bales lower than USDA’s July 11 projection of 17 million bales.

The analysts spoke at the Ag Market Network’s annual Cotton Roundtable, held at the Intercontinental Exchange in New York City. Here’s a breakdown by region.

Southwest

While this year’s Texas crop is still struggling under the grip of an extended drought, it’s doing better than last year’s 3.5 million bale crop, in which 62 percent of the acreage was abandoned.

USDA’s Texas cotton crop condition index for the current crop is now around 62 percent compared to 36 percent a year ago, noted Carl Anderson, Extension specialist emeritus, Texas A&M University. (A crop at 100 percent is considered perfect).

Moderate to severe drought conditions have existed for more than a year in Texas, Anderson said. “During the first half of 2012, rainfall across most cotton areas in Texas totaled less than 2 inches. However, there have been some localized rains that benefited both irrigated fields and some dryland areas.

“In the three months of April through June, much of the cotton growing areas have received 8 percent to 12 percent of normal rainfall. As of July 23, Texas cotton is rated by USDA as 8 percent very poor, 17 percent poor, 38 percent fair, 31 percent good and only 6 percent excellent.”

Given the lack of normal rainfall, below average irrigated and dryland cotton yields are expected in Texas, according to Anderson.

Of the estimated 6.8 million acres planted in Texas, about one-third of the acreage planted (mostly dryland) is likely to be abandoned due primarily to dry soil conditions. In South Texas, cotton conditions are mixed — some good and some bad.

“Statewide, 35 percent of the crop was setting bolls as of July 23. As a result, the existing cotton could improve with timely rain and moderate temperatures in late summer and early fall. The Texas cotton crop potential is in the 4.5 million to 6 million bale range, depending on good or not-so-good weather conditions between now and the middle of October.”