The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has announced that cotton acreage is expected to increase by nearly 27 percent in 2011, from 82,250 acres in 2010 to an estimated 105,000 acres this year.

In 2007, after a year of low yields and low prices, Virginia farmers planted only 58,000 acres of cotton. The last time the state topped 100,000 acres was in 2006.

“In 2010, cotton prices moved higher, but with limited rainfall in Virginia our yields were low,” said VDACS Commissioner Matthew J. Lohr. “Prices right now are the highest they’ve been in years, and that has influenced farmers’ planting decisions,” he added. “They can book some of their crop at a very good price, and weather permitting, even with higher fuel and fertilizer costs, they should be able to have a profitable crop year.”

Lohr credits the resurgence of cotton acreage to several other factors in addition to record prices: eradication of and continued surveillance for the cotton boll weevil, dedicated research staff at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, and strong cotton exports. Virginia exports cotton and cottonseed to Turkey, China, Indonesia, Korea, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Japan and other countries.

He also credits funding for innovative research such as using cotton gin waste for packaging supplies, cotton chemical wipes that absorb liquid toxins in warfare, cotton oil-absorbing booms used in the Gulf oil spill clean-up, as well as making cottonseed for human consumption. Cottonseed, a high protein seed, is currently used as feed for dairy cattle and other livestock.