With planting season still weeks away for most of the Southwest cotton crop, farmers are keeping one eye on the weather and one on the market as they try to determine the best crop mix for 2013.

Recent upticks in cotton prices and recent precipitation across a good portion of cotton country may have moved the few acres back into the cotton column. But a lot of uncertainty remains, according to cotton specialists.

Texas AgriLife Extension’s Gaylon Morgan doesn’t believe a National Cotton Council estimate of a 25-percent reduction in Texas cotton acreage will “come to fruition because of the changes in cotton versus grain markets.

“Cotton prices rebounded considerably in February and set a better safety net price for cotton. Some soil moisture also will make folks more optimistic about the 2013 season, and I suspect this will lend folks to plant more cotton than previously planned.”

The past few years may also have a lingering, negative effect on some growers. Some farmers, said Morgan, “have had a couple of bad years in cotton and are considering a change. And South Texas folks have already planted corn and/or sorghum.”

Other areas could see a few more cotton acres. “I think cotton will take back some of the crop acreage from previously expected grain acreage in the Rolling Plains and West Texas. In the Blacklands and South Texas, I do not expect much difference from previous predictions (a month or two ago) in cotton acreage.”

Producers in the Rolling Plains, West Texas, and the High Plains “still have the flexibility (time and seed options) to move to cotton.”

The High Plains has benefitted from recent rainfall, which could coax a few more acres back to cotton.

Mary Jane Buerkle, media director for Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., says conditions so far are better than they were at this time in recent years.

“We've had more rainfall and snowfall these past few months than during this time in previous years, and some areas are in fairly good shape right now, but that certainly isn't true for the entire High Plains,” she noted.