What a difference a year makes. Last year's Texas cotton crop of 8.44 million bales broke the previous year's record of 7.74 million bales, which had broken a 55-year-old record of 6 million bales achieved in 1949.

“Ideal weather, boll weevil eradication, improved varieties and new cultural and machinery technologies afforded those record yields,” said Texas A&M Extension specialist Carl Anderson, speaking at the Cotton Roundtable, in New York City.

This year the west Texas cotton crop is taking a beating from prolonged dry weather. According to Anderson, growers could abandon as much as two million acres in the coming weeks.

As in Texas, dry weather is impacting states in the Southeast and Mid-South, while Arizona and California are off to excellent starts. Here's more:

Anderson estimates that roughly 2 million acres of the 6.4 million acres planted in Texas this season will be abandoned. “That would be a 33 percent abandonment compared a 6 percent abandonment last year.”

Anderson says the Texas crop is hurting, with 50 percent rated very poor to poor as of July 1, and only 20 percent rated good to excellent. “In 1998, which was a very bad year for Texas, we abandoned 42 percent of our planted acreage. This year is falling close to that.

“Cotton in south and central Texas is in very poor to fair condition. No more than half a crop is expected in the lower Rio Grande Valley. “The upper coast has about 200,000 acres in the best shape of any area in Texas. The Blacklands has an average crop on 180,000 acres. The Rolling Plains is off to a slow start on about 1 million acres of mostly dryland acres.”

Anderson estimates that the Texas crop could total around 4.5 million bales this season. “The range could easily be between 4 million and 5 million bales. If we continue with 2-3 more weeks of hot, dry weather, I would expect a crop of around 4 million bales.”

Oklahoma growers, “also have a poor crop,” said Anderson, who estimates production of 280,000 bales on 300,000 acres planted.

In Kansas, cotton acres are sharply up, 100,000 acres compared to 74,000 acres in 2005. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have a potential of producing around 5 million bales in 2006, almost 4 million bales less than last year's 8.9 million bale combined crop.”

California and Arizona cotton crops are off to good starts, and could produce a total of 2.3 million bales, according to Jarral Neeper, vice-president of marketing, Calcot, Ltd. “But the state continues to lose cotton acres to permanent crops like almonds, and we've also had a lot of dairies move into the state.

“Last year, California growers planted 430,000 acres of Upland cotton and 230,000 acres of Pima. This year, Upland acres is expected to decline to around 300,000 acres, while the Pima crop is expected to rise slightly to 250,000 acres.”

Neeper expects average yields for Upland cotton of around 1,300 pounds. “With reduced acres and increased yield from the year before, we won't make as big an Upland crop as we did a year ago, but it will come in somewhere around 800,000 bales. Acres and yield for Pima will be up, so we're looking at a Pima crop of around 680,000 bales.”

According to Neeper, Arizona cotton producers are off to one of their best starts ever, and some areas could achieve records. “The total crop is Arizona will be somewhere around 620,000 bales to 630,000 bales.”

According to O.A. Cleveland, professor emeritus, Mississippi State University, South Carolina owns one of the better cotton crops in the Southeast, although it's still average at best. “Alabama is the only state that is still suffering somewhat. They have had more weather problems than other states and it's off to a terribly slow start. We have seen conditions improve in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida the last couple of weeks.”

Southeast cotton growers planted 3.6 million acres of cotton this spring, up 11 percent over last year. “Georgia was the big state, with 1.4 million acres, up 15 percent over last year.”

Mid-South cotton producers planted 4.21 million acres in 2006, up 6 percent over last year. “Current prospects call for better than average yields in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Arkansas and Missouri have had poor starts, but Arkansas has pretty much caught up. There are some very dry spots in the Mid-South. The Louisiana crop had been off to a very nice start, but is now struggling a little bit due to drought.”

Plugging in optimistic yields would produce a crop of around 5.2 million bales for the Southeast and 7.5 million bales for the Delta, according to Cleveland.

The projections from all analysts at the Roundtable would put 2006 cotton production for the United States at roughly 20 million bales.