Cotton plantings continue to shrink in California

California cotton acreage continues its steep decline; now at just over 160,000 acres based on the 2015 pink bollworm survey.

Estimate: California cotton acreage drops 24 percent

Total cotton acreage well under 200,000 Pima will likely be most popular varieties planted  

California’s pink bollworm survey of cotton acreage reveals a 24 percent reduction in total cotton acres compared to last year.

Each year, the State of California conducts a survey of cotton acreage as part of its pink bollworm eradication program. These are the most accurate acreage figures as inspectors physically drive every cotton field in the state and record location and size of the field.

According to Roger Isom, president of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, total cotton acreage for 2015 is 160,806.

In 2005, California cotton acreage was 667,000. By 2009 that number fell to 190,000 acres before rebounding to 365,000 acres in 2012. A year later it fell to just over 278,000 and again to 210,000 acres in 2014.

Most of the cotton planted in California is now extra-long staple Pima varieties.

Pink bollworm data show that Kings County has the most cotton planted at over 51,000 acres, followed by Fresno County at just over 38,000 acres and Merced County at nearly 32,000 acres. Riverside and Imperial counties have a combined 4,500 acres of cotton planted with slightly over 2,800 acres planted in the Sacramento Valley.

“This was better than I had hoped,” said Isom, who earlier in the year estimated about 170,000 acres of cotton based on an informal survey. “I was convinced at last week’s ginner’s meeting in Monterey that we were going to be under 150,000 acres.”

This year’s acreage count is the lowest since before the Great Depression, according to Isom’s association.

Data for 1941 – the earliest available from the USDA – shows harvested acres that year totaled 351,000 with all but 300 of those acres planted in Upland varieties.

By 2012 that ratio switched as two-thirds of the cotton grown in California was Pima.

California cotton acreage totaled more than one million from about 1973 through 1997. Since then acreage numbers have dropped significantly each year.

As acreage has declined yields have steadily increased to well over 1,500 pounds per acre with Pima yields trailing Upland yields by about 100 pounds per acre, according to the USDA.

Isom said he won’t know the Pima versus Upland ratio for California until later this summer, but suspects that of the total, 75 percent could be Pima varieties.

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