Monday, April 23, 2018

Pima: King of California Cotton as Season Begins In the Valley

Despite a little rain and unseasonably cool temperatures last week, cotton growers continued to plant the seeds for the coming season. That meant soil temperatures have reached the perfect threshold for planting this year’s Acala and American Pima crops.

Cotton growers are busy planting their crop this season.
Field scout Damien Jelen estimates about half of growers have planted their crop. The rest will wrap up over the next week. For some early bird growers, they are seeing seedlings already emerging from the ground.

“By April 30th, everything should be planted in order to make the fall harvest in time,” Damien says.
If growers plant too late, they risk trying to harvest their cotton in less than ideal weather conditions. We all know how nature can be so unpredictable.

For now, we can say let the cotton season begin. Of course, the race to harvest is like a marathon – a slow, lumbering season that lasts 180 to 200 days from seed to cotton bolls.
Seedlings are emerging in some cotton fields.

This year, forecasters are predicting a slight increase of cotton acreage in California – thanks to a boost in planting of the high-end American Pima variety. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service forecasts growers will plant82,000 acres of Upland/Acala cotton in the state, a 6.8 percent drop from 2017.

In contrast, Golden State growers, primarily those in the San Joaquin Valley, expect to plant 230,000 acres of Pima, up 7 percent from last year. Once again, California will account for the lion’s share of Pima acreage – 88 percent – planted in the United States.

Nationally, the USDA estimates the planted area for all U.S. cotton in 2018 at 13.5 million acres – a 7% increase over 2017.

It’s easy to say Pima serves as the backbone of California’s cotton industry, which has steadily declined over the decades. The fine, extra-long fiber is dubbed by some as “cashmere of cotton,” rivaling fine Egyptian cotton. It commands a higher price than Acala, which can allow growers to continue growing cotton despite rising water prices.

Pima was introduced to the state in the 1990s. The arid Valley weather was ideal for growing the variety.  Moreover, heavy marketing by the trade group, Supima,sparked demand by textile mills and the fiber eventually became the choice for premium sheets and shirts.
Special cotton gins also emerged to gently process Pima to preserve the quality of the fiber. Damien noted a Pima gin opened recently in Dos Palos.  Thanks to Pima, cotton remains relevant in California agriculture.

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