The Southeast cotton producing region not only picked a big crop in 2012, they also produced a high quality one, according to the latest classing data from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Meanwhile the Mid-South crop took a big hit from high micronaire.

As of January 9, AMS had classed 14.9 million bales of upland cotton, with about 800,000 bales to go, mostly in the Southeast and Arizona. Around 600,000 bales of Pima had been classed by Jan. 9, with another 125,000 bales to go.

According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Southeast produced an estimated 5.535 million bales of cotton in 2012. “It looks like we’re going to be classing cotton in the Southeast until mid-February,” said Robbie Seals, with AMS in Memphis, speaking at the 2013 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, in San Antonio.

“We are still running multiple shifts there. They’ve made a heck of a crop, and it’s one of the better quality crops that they’ve made.”

Every Southeast state increased cotton yield over the previous year, according to USDA’s crop production estimates. Seals noted that the Southeast has moved ahead of Texas for the last two years in percentage of the U.S. crop produced.

Nationwide, the 2012 cotton crop “was one of the highest in terms of color grade we’ve seen in the last five years,” Seals said. “We saw a big improvement in the Southeast, while the Mid-South dropped off just a little bit.

“The average leaf grade was up slightly from the previous year (moving from 3.0 to 3.1). We saw a little more leaf in the Southeast and Mid-South. The Mid-South started out with considerably higher leaf, (5-leaf and 6-leaf) but it got better as we went along.”

Extraneous matter, primarily bark, has been on the rise in the Southeast and the Mid-South, according to Seals. “In the Southeast, extraneous matter at the Macon and Florence classing offices was 18 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Normally we would see these higher numbers when we have a lot of freezing and bad weather.”

Micronaire numbers

As of Jan. 9, 47 percent of the Mid-South crop had been classed with high micronaire (5.0 or higher). “Micronaire came down a little bit in the Southeast and Southwest, and came up a little in the West,” Seals said.

For the third year in a row, the average strength of the U.S. crop was 30 grams per Tex. Since high volume instrument classing was implemented, the average strength of the U.S. crop has steadily improved from 26 grams per Tex to current levels. Average strength for the Southeast was 29 and the Mid-South, 30, according to Seals.

The U.S. crop averaged 35.7 in length, with the Southeast average increasing to 36. Seals noted that the average staple in Texas moved past the national average in 2005, “but over the last two years, as they’ve been plagued with dry weather, it’s moved back below the U.S. average.”

High micronaire resulted in the Mid-South’s percentage of cotton at base quality or higher dropping below 30 percent, “one of the lowest percentages we’ve seen since we’ve been tracking the base quality,” Seals said.

The percentage of the crop at high quality and higher, which is 31-3-35 (color-leaf-staple) with no extraneous matter, “was one of the highest percentages we’ve seen in the Southeast,” Seals said.

“It’s about 36 percent for Alabama and Georgia and 27 percent for North Carolina and South Carolina.”

Arkansas and Missouri jumped up in the latter category last year, “but came back down this year, again due to issues with micronaire.” Both states had over 50 percent of their crops discounted for micronaire in 2012.

According to AMS, 98.7 percent of the U.S. Pima crop was at Grade 3 (color, 3 and leaf, 3). Micronaire had fallen for Pima over the last couple of years, but has returned to around 4.0, according to Seals. “Staple was little shorter this year, but strength was the highest we’ve ever had.”

All 10 classing offices were operating in 2012-13. In 2010-11, the Lamesa, Texas, classing office was shut down, and its cotton classed in Lubbock.

erobinson@farmpress.com