The first official US cotton condition reading of 2022 showed the crop making an average start – although the rating hid a stark contrast in fortunes between top grower Texas and other states which have received more plentiful rain.

The US Department of Agriculture rated at 44% the proportion of US cotton in “good” or “excellent” condition, a figure in line with the five-year average of 47% for initial condition readings.

The worst start, on data going back to 1995, was made in 2011, when the crop kicked off with just 28% reported as in good or excellent condition.

But some other years, most lately 2017, have attracted ratings above 60%, with the 64% figure of 2005 the highest initial rating in the dataset.

West-east divide

However, this year’s overall reading disguised a two-tier start to the season, with a weak reading for the crop in Texas, by far the top growing state, diverging from far stronger ratings elsewhere.

Just 20% of Texas cotton was assessed as being in good or excellent health, the state’s joint-worst start since 2011, amid drought which has left 79% of topsoil viewed as either “short” or “very short” of moisture.

By contrast, east in second-ranked growing state Georgia, where 64% of cotton was rated good or excellent, just 23% of topsoil is viewed as short or very short of moisture.

In third-ranked Arkansas, where only 15% of topsoil had inadequate moisture, the crop reading came in at 80% good or excellent.

‘Doing well’

The Texan rain shortfall has raised concerns of weak yields when it comes to harvest, in the autumn, and of much crop not being harvested at all.

Weather monitor Gro earlier this month said that drought readings indicated that 47% of Texan cotton acres could be abandoned, compared with a 10-year average of 29%.

However, late-May precipitation has eased concerns somewhat, with the USDA reporting that “cotton was reported as doing well” in the state’s central belt, adding that “recent moisture” had helped sowings too, which have reached 60% complete, 4 points ahead of the average pace.

Overall US cotton plantings, at 68% finished as of Sunday, were also 4 points faster than normal.

Spring wheat misses out

USDA data showed farmers making good progress with planting many other spring crops too, after a slow start, managing to take corn sowings to 86% complete, only 1 point behind the average.

For soybeans, the 66% of crop seeded as of Sunday also represented a lag of only 1 point behind the norm.

However, thanks to excessive moisture in the northern US, spring wheat seedings – at 73% finished as of Sunday – remained markedly behind the average figure of 92% for the time of year, even as the ideal planting window is closing.

In North Dakota, the top spring-wheat growing state, only 59% of crop was seeded as of Sunday, even as the final dates for full crop insurance of May 31 and June 5 (depending on area) loomed.

In Minnesota, the second biggest spring wheat grower, just 53% of crop was seeded as of Sunday, compared with an average of 96% by then, and with the insurance deadline having passed two weeks before for southern growers.

Saturated soils

The slow progress reflects soggy field conditions, with the proportion of Minnesota topsoil rated as holding “surplus” moisture standing at 28%, if down 10 points week on week.

In North Dakota, 35% of topsoil held surplus moisture, up 2 points for the week.

However, the moisture has helped some decent condition readings for spring grains which North Dakota farmers have managed to plant.

For barley, the initial condition reading released overnight came in at 62% for the state, above the national average of 46%, with a 67% oat rating above the average of 51%.

The USDA is expected next week to reveal its first US spring wheat condition reading of the season.