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Texas Cotton Prospects Wither as Extreme Heat Continues

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Prospects for Texas’ cotton crop, which accounts for one third of US cotton production, are wilting amid the ongoing heatwave. Record temperatures are also threatening the crop in China, the world’s No. 1 cotton producer and importer, and the global cotton industry may look to India to help boost supplies. 

Triple-digit heat has been scorching the southern US for nearly 40 consecutive days. While cotton is more heat-tolerant than many other plants, excessive temperatures during its reproductive phase can increase boll shedding, lowering yields. 

Current soil moisture levels in Texas’ cotton-growing areas are among the lowest in over 20 years, as shown in Gro’s US Farmer Profitability App. Only 26% of the crop is currently rated “good-to-excellent,” according to the USDA, after declining seven points in the week ended July 16. 

Land surface temperatures in Texas’ cotton-growing regions have exceeded 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) consistently since mid-June. Gro’s Analogous Periods model — which identifies past years with similar growing conditions including temperature, drought, rainfall, and vegetative health — shows that the year with the most similar readings was 2019, which saw yields decline by 25%.

While drought levels have improved from last year, crop conditions in Texas will likely deteriorate further as excessive heat is forecast to continue in the coming weeks. Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator weighted for cotton planted areas in Texas shows heat indices well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) lingering into August, with little rain in sight. 

The outlook for China’s cotton crop offers no relief. Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator shows the third-highest drought reading in the country for this time since at least 2003. Drought conditions are expected to worsen with high temperatures and limited rainfall in the forecast. 

Temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) have also been recorded In the autonomous province of Xinjiang, where 90% of China’s cotton is produced. Additionally, cotton acreage in the country is down by around 10% this season, as the government aims to boost its grain capacity in a new effort to bolster food security. Any further reductions in China’s cotton production could drive it to purchase more from the international market.

However, India, the world’s second-largest cotton producer, and the third-largest exporter, could provide some much needed relief to global supplies. The current monsoon season is faring well, with Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator showing above-average precipitation in the country’s cotton-growing regions. An uptick in India’s cotton production could offset the shortfall out of the US and China.

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