AUBURN, Alabama—Despite a year with a multitude of challenges in the field, Alabama cotton yields are currently estimated to be the third highest in state history.
Cotton production this year is up 18 percent from 2016 production. Alabama Cooperative Extension System economist Max Runge said this increase stems primarily from a 25 percent increase in harvested acreage over 2016.
“Given the challenging growing year, cotton yields held up surprisingly well,” Runge said. “From the wet, cool spring to two hurricanes, some localized heavy rain events and an outbreak of white flies—Alabama growers still managed to have the third highest yield in history.”
At November’s end, producers were behind on harvest by nearly 15 percent in comparison to the previous year. By the end of November 2016, 93 percent of the crop had been harvested—a substantial contrast to 2017’s 79 percent. As a result of a wet stretch with rain and snow, many producers are still in the fields harvesting cotton.
Yield projections are at 931 pounds per acre, down 6 percent from the record 988 pound-per-acre yields one year ago. Planted acreage increased in 2017. Farmers planted 435,000 acres of cotton in 2017, up from 345,000 acres in 2016. The current growing season projections indicate production will surpass the previous year because of higher numbers of planted acreage, even though current yield numbers are lower.
The most recent National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) crop update also indicates an increase in nationwide cotton production. U.S. cotton production looks to top 21.4 million 480-pound bales. This projection is slightly higher than November forecasts and up 25 percent from 2016.
Good Year for Crops in Alabama
Cotton was not the only crop to prosper this growing season. Corn, peanut and soybean production numbers will likely top all of the numbers from 2016.
“Overall, 2017 was a good year for yields for Alabama producers,” Runge said. “Corn, soybeans and wheat all had record yields, peanuts had their second highest yield history and cotton the third highest yields. Prices, on the other hand, will potentially be some of the lowest in almost a decade. Even with high yields, farmers have a challenging year financially.”
Corn yield forecasts are at a record high 165 bushels per acre. Corn for grain production projections hit 38.8 million bushels. This projection is up 3 percent from 2016 with over 25 percent fewer harvested acres. Peanut production is forecast at 749 million pounds. The production numbers are down 7 percent from October, but exceed 2016 yields by 21 percent. Soybean production is forecast at 15.3 million bushels. Numbers are up 2 percent from October predictions and up 17 percent from 2016 with 17 percent fewer acres.
Cotton is the most valuable crop in Alabama, bringing in more than $234 million in 2016. The state also ranks sixth in cotton production. In 2016, Alabama farmers produced 706,000 bales of upland cotton and 207,000 tons of cotton seed.