The US cotton crop has improved to its strongest for the this stage of the season in nine years, as southern Plains crops defied worries over damage from renewing dryness.
The US Department of Agriculture rated at 60%, as of Sunday, the proportion of the US cotton crop in “good” or “excellent” condition, up 4 points week on week.
The figure upgraded the crop to the highest rated for this time of year since 2010, when it was 68% good or excellent, and to well above the 41% figure seen as of this time last year.
And it reflected in particular improvements in the southern Plains, despite concerns over dryness in the likes of Texas, which is responsible for more than half of the US crop.
“The main problem area continues to be the Texas Panhandle,” said Jack Scoville at Price Futures ahead of the data.
“It has generally been very hot and dry in much of the Panhandle and dryland crops have been suffering”.
‘Signs of heat stress’
US officials in Texas acknowledged that in some northern parts of the state, dryland cotton – ie that growing on unirrigated land – was “showing signs of heat stress”.
Indeed, last week, “weather was mostly hot, dry and windy across the state,” the officials said, noting that “most of the state received little to no precipitation”.
Still, with 61% of the state rated as having at least adequate subsoil moisture, and irrigation noted in southern Texas, cotton crops in many areas “continued to progress”.
The Texas cotton crop rating improved 5 points week on week to 58% rated good or excellent.
In neighbouring Oklahoma, the crop was also upgraded by 5 points to 73% good or excellent, despite rainfall last week averaging only 0.13 inches.
The proportion of subsoil with adequate or surplus moisture, while down 4 points week on week, remained elevated, at 89%.
Meanwhile, further east, in Tennessee, fears last week of crop damage from downpours from the remnants of Hurricane Barry were unfulfilled, despite reports of rains of 4 inches or more in many areas.
“The rains were slow to, or did not, run-off bottom land, but improved conditions of crops planted on higher ground,” the USDA’s Tennessee bureau said.
The cotton condition rating also rose for Georgia, the second biggest US cotton-growing state, by 1 point to 60% good or excellent despite reports of dryness hurting crops in some areas.
In Bleckley County, in the centre of the state, scout Cole Moon reported that, amid “extremely dry” conditions, “a lot of “ unirrigated cotton “is about done.
“We were looking pretty good up until about a month ago, but rain has eluded us since.”
However, overall, “while the US crop is late, it still holds strong production potential,” said Louis Rose at Rose Commodity Group, adding that this “is not bullish for prices”.
New York December cotton futures in fact stood up 0.2% at 63.46 cents a pound in morning deals, but remain down 4.0% for July.