Harvest is just about done and one statistic is clear: this is the best year ever for Kansas cotton.
Rex Friesen, agronomist with the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, says south-central Kansas farmers have seen yields as high as 1,110 pounds per acre. Quality is also good – up as much as 7 cents a pound based on the quality grading system. Statewide, yields are expected to be about 850 pounds per acre.
The credit goes mostly to the weather, Friesen says. Spring rains got the crop up and going and timely rains at bloom and boll set were just right for a bumper year in cotton.
Friesen said the success is not likely to lead to a big increase in the number of cotton acres planted, however.
"We don't have the numbers we'd like to see," he says.
Part of the problem is that cotton requires its own equipment for planting, harvesting and transportation and farmers are hesitant to put that kind of investment into a crop that they don't know that much about growing.
"We're trying to get more people to go ahead and plant, encouraging them and promising to find them help with equipment needs," he said. "But the growth is slow."
Ginning is now going full speed at all four of the state's cotton gins in Winfield, Anthony, Cullison and Moscow and officials expect to see the end of ginning by Christmas.
Friesen said the next big steps forward for the Kansas crop are coming soon with the approval of new GMO herbicide resistant varieties that will enable growers to overcome the scourge of glyphosate resistant pigweed and grow cotton that is resistant to 2,4-D.
Extreme sensitivity to 2,4-D is especially a problem for cotton because of damage to fields because of drift after the herbicide is sprayed on neighboring fields.
"We've had whole fields wiped out by accidental drift," he said. "Getting varieties resistant to 2,4-D will be a major step."