ICAC - Cotton This Month June-2023 Update
Cotton’s Slow Period Continues. . . But Planting Decisions Are Coming Soon
With the current season coming to a close it is time to start shifting our focus to the next season with high hopes and anticipation. Most of the Northern Hemisphere cotton producing countries have started planting, are preparing for planting, or are thinking about planting. Soil moisture is an essential ingredient for a successful planting operation.
Interestingly, in the United States region of West Texas, soil moisture is currently very high in most areas. In several areas of West Texas, rainfall totals exceed average annual amounts for this time of year.
This is fantastic news for West Texas farmers, given the current season’s catastrophic drought and severely decreased production. In fact, production in the United States is down nearly 665,000 tonnes from the 2021/22 season, most of which can be directly attributed to the drought in West Texas. With high levels of soil moisture available, cotton farmers may be incentivised to plant cotton early to capitalise on this rare occurrence. However, with the recent lowering on the international price of cotton (Cotlook A-Index) and the uncertainty surrounding global economic markets, farmers will definitely have a difficult time deciding whether cotton makes sense for their portfolio in the coming season. With only two months remaining in the 2022/23 season, global cotton production and consumption have not changed much since the previous edition of CTM. Production is currently recorded at 24.51 million tonnes and global consumption remains consistent at 23.79 million tonnes. Trade is down significantly from the previous season but has also not changed much from the last edition of CTM. As is typical with trade data, the final totals on global trade are lagged by several months and will be reconciled only after the official close of the 2022/23 season on 31 July 2023.
With the recent rains in West Texas and the importance that cotton still plays in the United States, we have an opportunity to explore how cotton has helped shape the country and helped drive the trajectory of this economic powerhouse.
From Cotton Fields to Economic Powerhouse: A History of Cotton in the United States and West Texas
There is little doubt that cotton has played a pivotal role in shaping the history, economy, and culture of the United States. This article provides an exploration of the history of cotton in the United States, with a particular focus on its significance in the region of West Texas. From its introduction to the challenges faced and triumphs achieved, we will trace the remarkable journey of cotton from a modest crop to an engine for the economy. Through examining key historical events, technological advancements, economic impact, and social implications, we will gain an understanding of how cotton has influenced the development of the United States, specifically in West Texas, currently the largest cotton growing region in the country.
How It All Began
The cultivation of cotton in the United States began in the early colonial era (17th century). However, it was the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 that revolutionised cotton production, leading to a surge in cultivation across the southern states. The rich soil and favourable climate of West Texas made it an ideal region for cotton farming, with pioneers beginning to experiment with the crop in the late 19th century.
The cotton industry in West Texas had humble beginnings. Early settlers faced numerous challenges, including aridity, water scarcity, and limited infrastructure. However, the arrival of railroads in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought accessibility to markets, enabling West Texas farmers to expand their cotton production. The establishment of cotton gins and textile mills further supported the growth of the industry.
Technological advancements and agricultural innovations played a pivotal role in the transformation of the West Texas cotton industry. Irrigation techniques, such as centre-pivot irrigation, helped overcome water scarcity and expanded the acreage under cotton cultivation. Mechanised farming equipment, including cotton pickers and harvesters, revolutionised labour-intensive processes, significantly increasing productivity and efficiency. The introduction of new Bt-cotton varieties in 1996 and herbicide-tolerant (HT) varieties in 1997 provided a muchneeded breakthrough for cotton production. Bt-cotton protected the crop from bollworm damage, preventing yield losses and protecting farmers’ profitability. HT cotton enabled efficient weed management, reducing costs and increasing profitability, allowing farmers to maximise their cotton production. These advancements in genetically modified cotton varieties revolutionised the industry, enhancing yield potential and improving sustainability in cotton farming. Two additional programs which have had a profound impact on the United States, in general, and West Texas in particular, were the boll weevil eradication program and the pink bollworm eradication program. Both of these programs were initiated at the federal level and were hugely successful in controlling the boll weevil and pink bollworm to the point that they no longer pose a threat to cotton farmers.
The cotton industry had a profound economic impact on West Texas. Cotton became a major driver of industrialisation, attracting investment and creating job opportunities. The establishment of cotton-centric towns, such as Lubbock and Amarillo, led to the development of allied industries, including cotton gins, textile mills, and cottonseed oil processing plants. These industries stimulated economic growth, contributing to the overall prosperity of the region.
However, despite the economic growth, the West Texas cotton industry faced numerous challenges throughout its history. Droughts, insect pests, and fluctuations in global cotton markets all posed significant risks to farmers. The Dust Bowl in the US Great Plains region during the 1930s intensified these challenges, causing massive crop failures and forcing many farmers to abandon their land.
Resilient farmers adapted their practices, implemented soil conservation methods, and sought to recover and rebuild through assistance from government programs. Government interventions played a vital role in supporting the West Texas cotton industry. The establishment of the Soil Conservation Service provided guidance on sustainable farming practices, erosion prevention, and soil management. Additionally, farm subsidies and price stabilisation programs offered financial support to farmers, ensuring stability in the industry and helping to mitigate the impact of economic fluctuations.
In recent decades, the West Texas cotton industry has continued to thrive. Farmers have embraced modern technologies and precision agriculture techniques, such as GPS-guided equipment and remote sensing, to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact. The introduction of genetically modified cotton varieties has further enhanced productivity and pest resistance. West Texas remains a prominent cotton-producing region, contributing significantly to the national and global cotton supply. Advancement and evolution of technology has enabled the United States and West Texas to remain at the top in terms of cotton production. The current state of cotton production in the region, highlighted by the innovative methods and strategies employed by farmers, improved yields, reduced environmental impact, and methods to promote long-term sustainability all contribute to this goal and have allowed farmers to readily adopt advanced irrigation techniques, precision farming and genetic advancements. In some ways, the success in West Texas can be a blueprint for other developing nations on a similar path, although I admit this is a complicated argument with no simple standard prescription.
Modern cotton production in West Texas relies on precision agriculture techniques, leveraging data and technology to optimise farming practices. GPS-guided equipment allows farmers to accurately plant seeds, apply fertilisers, and manage irrigation. Real-time data collection and analysis enable farmers to monitor soil moisture levels, weather patterns, and plant health, allowing for timely interventions and resource management. These data-driven approaches maximise yields while minimising input costs and environmental impact.
Water scarcity is a significant challenge in West Texas, but farmers have adopted advanced irrigation systems to mitigate its impact on cotton production. Centre pivot irrigation, drip irrigation, and subsurface drip irrigation systems ensure efficient water use, delivering water directly to the root zone while minimising evaporation. These technologies help farmers optimise water resources, increase crop productivity, and reduce water wastage.
In addition, modern cotton production in West Texas emphasises sustainable pest and weed management practices. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches prioritise biological controls, cultural practices, and targeted pesticide applications to minimise chemical usage. Biological control agents, such as beneficial insects and nematodes, are employed to control pest populations naturally. Crop rotation, cover cropping, and precision herbicide application methods are utilised to effectively manage weeds while reducing environmental impact.
Genetic advancements and biotechnology have played a significant role in modern cotton production. Genetic engineering has led to the development of genetically modified cotton varieties with traits such as insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. These traits help reduce reliance on chemical pesticides and simplify weed management. Biotechnology also enables the development of cotton varieties with enhanced drought tolerance, disease resistance, and improved fibre quality, ensuring better yields and sustainability in challenging environments. Close collaboration with Texas Tech University in Lubbock has allowed researchers and farmers to work together to address some of the most challenging obstacles to cotton.
Farmers in West Texas are committed to environmental stewardship and conservation practices. Soil conservation techniques, such as conservation tillage and cover cropping, minimise soil erosion and enhance soil health. Nutrient management plans ensure precise application of fertilisers, reducing nutrient runoff and water pollution. Farmers also actively participate in conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which encourages the establishment of environmentally beneficial practices on marginal lands.
Collaboration and education are vital components of modern cotton production in West Texas. Farmers, agricultural researchers, and industry stakeholders actively collaborate to exchange knowledge and best practices. Extension programs, research institutions, and industry associations provide educational resources, workshops, and field days to empower farmers with the latest research findings and technological advancements.
In all, modern cotton production in West Texas embodies the fusion of innovation, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. Through the adoption of precision agriculture, advanced irrigation systems, sustainable pest and weed management practices, genetic advancements, and a commitment to conservation, West Texas farmers have successfully increased yields while minimising environmental impact. By embracing cutting-edge technologies and prioritising sustainable practices, the region’s cotton industry continues to thrive and contribute to the global cotton supply. The future of cotton production in West Texas lies in the continued adoption of sustainable approaches, collaboration, and education, ensuring the long-term viability and prosperity of the industry for generations to come.
For the most up-to-date statistics please refer to the ICAC Data Dashboard. The dashboard is updated with new data constantly and that new information is immediately reflected in the Dashboard, making it a valuable, up-to-date resource all month long. You can view a video tutorial on how to use the ICAC Data Dashboard on the ICAC’s YouTube page Here.
The Secretariat’s current price forecast of the season-average A-Index for 2022/23 ranges from 96.36 cents to 106.47 cents, with a midpoint at 100.78 cents per pound.