Oklahoma Cotton: 2017 Crop Could be Largest Bale Volume Since 1933

Photo by Larry Stalcup

According to USDA-NASS, in 2017, 585,000 acres were planted with 555,000 acres expected to be harvested. This is nearly double the state average planted acreage.

USDA projects the Oklahoma cotton production to total 1,060,000 bales for 2017. Yield is expected to average 917 pounds per acre, compared with 1,021 pounds last year. This would be the largest crop in terms of bale volume since 1933, but that crop was produced on 2.86 million harvested acres.

This massive cotton crop, by local standards, is severely taxing the ginning infrastructure, and many gins will likely be running well into April and May. But, this is also great news for the state, particularly in the southwestern counties,  and is a badly needed economic “shot in the arm” due to current low wheat prices. This is the first year that the first newsletter of the year will be issued with cotton still in the field waiting to be ginned.


The 2017 season ended with well below normal August temperatures, slightly below normal September temperatures, and a well above normal October until a regional killing freeze occurred on October 27 and 28. Irrigated fields that were planted on time in May were generally unaffected by the freeze, however, late June planted dryland fields encountered some maturity challenges.

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These dryland fields represented a small fraction of the overall planted acreage in 2017.


Many dryland and irrigated producers generated record, or near record yields. High thrips pressure failed to develop in most fields across the state but where populations were detected they were easily controlled. Cotton fleahopper pressure was persistent and multiple control sprays were used in many fields.

Bollworms were detected in several fields with control measures taken in some. No widespread infestation occurred. Aphid populations became a problem in several fields where control measures were initiated they generally provided adequate control.


The other good news is that the USDA-AMS Classing Office at Abilene is reporting that color and leaf grades, staple, micronaire, strength, uniformity, and bark contamination have all been good to excellent for many producers. This is based on classing results for about 540,000 bales of Oklahoma cotton classed through February 16, 91% have been color grades 11, 21 or 31, with 57% with color grade 11 or 21 – the best possible. 

Leaf grades have averaged 2.4 with 56% exhibiting leaf grade 1 or 2 – the best quality possible. Bark contamination is present in about 9.4% of the bales classed thus far. Staple (fiber length) has averaged 36.7 32nds of an inch. This is outstanding.

We have 58% of the crop with a 37 or longer staple, with an additional 22% classed as a 36. Uniformity average is 81.1%. Micronaire (a measure of maturity) averaged 4.2 units, with 94% in the 3.5-4.9 range. Currently our strength average is 30.2 g/tex, with 68% classed as 30 g/tex or higher.


It is of utmost importance that growers make good decisions with respect to varieties planted. The Extension cotton crop management program is critical to this success. Incidentally, the Oklahoma-ginned bales classed at Abilene thus far from the 2017 crop have the longest average staple, uniformity and strength averages, and this again is a result of wise variety selection.

The Abilene classing office serves east Texas, a portion of west Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Summaries for several projects pertaining to variety performance, weed control, entomology and plant pathology, harvest aids, etc. can be found in the 2017 project report. This can be downloaded here and here.

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